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Birthmark

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When Stephen Clingman was two, he underwent an operation to remove a birthmark under his right eye. The operation failed, and the birthmark returned, but in somewhat altered form.

In this captivating and beguiling book, Clingman takes the fact of that mark – its appearance, disappearance and return – as a guiding motif of memory. This is how we remember the worlds we are born into, how they become a set of images in the mind, surfacing and resurfacing across time and space. South Africa under apartheid was itself governed by the markings of birth – the accidents of colour, race, and skin. But what were the effects on the mind? 

Here a further motif comes into play, for in the operation Stephen’s vision was affected, and his eyes came to see differently from one another: divided vision in a divided world. How, in these circumstances, can we come to a deeper kind of vision, how can we achieve wholeness, acceptance, find our place in the midst of turmoil and change? 

In an enchanting and cumulative narrative set on three continents, Stephen’s memories make up the hologram of the book’s subtitle. It is a story that is personal, painful, comic, and ultimately uplifting: a book not so much of the coming of age, but the coming of perspective.

Birthmark is a profound reflection on vision and identity. From the minutely observed details of a Johannesburg childhood, through the dark comedy of military service, to the challenges of making a new life as an immigrant scholar, Clingman examines his own perspectives and their origins. How did I come to see this way? How does this way of seeing shape the person I am? Can it be changed? To answer such difficult questions, he must go beneath the shimmering surface to find deeper patterns in his mind and body, and reveal the “underlying grammar of things”. The result is a thoughtful, unconventional memoir that will change the reader’s perspective too. I was engrossed, challenged, moved.’ –  Ivan Vladislavić

About the Author

Stephen Clingman grew up in Johannesburg, where he went to school and attended Wits University. After graduating with a degree in English literature, he won a cholarship to Oxford where he completed a doctorate on the writings of Nadine Gordimer. He has written widely on South African and transnational literature. He is the author of an acclaimed biography of Bram Fischer, which won the Sunday Times/Alan Paton Award, South Africa’s premier prize for non-fiction. He now lives in Amherst in the United States, where he is professor of English at the University of Massachusetts and directs the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute.

Parameters of Book: 
Author: Stephen Clingman
ISBN: 9781431421459
d-PUB ISBN: 9781431422302
ePUB ISBN: 9781431422319
mobi file ISBN: 9781431422326
Size (mm): 235x155mm
Pages: 256pp
Format: Paperback
Colour: Black and White
Rights: South African
Language: English
Publication Date: April 2015