Out of Mind

J. Bernlef, Author, Adrienne Dixon, Translator David R. Godine Publisher $16.95 (150p) ISBN 978-0-87923-734-9
Bernlef, whose more than 50 books are well known in his native Holland, makes his first appearance in English translation with this view of illness and aging as unsentimental as it is sympathetic. His intimate and affecting story of the dramatic decline suffered by an elderly man afflicted by Alzheimer's disease draws its strength from the first-person narrative voice of the man himself. Initially lucid, if fatigued, 71-year-old Maarten Klein lives with his wife Vera in Gloucester, Mass. Dutch-born, they endured with difficulty the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands before emigrating to the U.S., where Maarten worked as a secretary for the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization. While Maarten has long considered himself a socially ``marginal figure,'' in other respects the Kleins' lives are unremarkable but for his intensity of perception, sustained in sharply convincing fragments even as his faculties disintegrate. ``I seem to lose words like another person loses blood,'' he observes helplessly, and resolves to ``invent a life for myself from minute to minute,'' but ultimately becomes the sole and poignant ``survivor of my own language.'' (July)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1989
Release date: 08/01/1989
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