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.
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