‘My mother, a house that is slowly collapsing, a bridge dancing to a tremor.’
It started when she could no longer remember the word for ‘book’. Then her mind, her language and her identity began to slip away.
This is Erwin Mortier’s moving, exquisitely observed memoir of his mother’s descent into dementia, as a once-flamboyant woman who loved life and pleasure becomes a shuffling, ghostlike figure wandering through the house. Piecing together the fragments of her lost life, and his own childhood, Mortier asks: what do we become when we lose the repertoire of habits and words that make us who we are? How well do we really know our families? How do you say goodbye to someone who is still there and yet not, suspended between life and death? Stammered Songbook is a heartbreaking and poetic expression of a son’s love; an extraordinary hymn to language; a meditation on time, mortality and how, eventually, we all unravel into memories.
‘Superb, staggering and even more… At once a clinical observation, a cry of love, a farewell and a meditation. A work of considerable significance’ Humanité
‘Erwin Mortier has surpassed himself. This is more than just an immensely touching confessional memoir about Alzheimer’s disease. It is an essential book. Overwhelming. Mortier unearths at least one diamond on every page’ De Standaard
‘A wonderful source of sustenance to survive the shipwreck’ Libération
‘In this painfully beautiful book it is ultimately love that persists despite everything, the love of a son for his mother. Heart-rending’ de Telegraaf
‘It makes no difference what subject Erwin Mortier settles upon. Everything he describes gains that characteristic splendour, that unmistakable, unique sound. Golden tragedy’ Opzij
Erwin Mortier (1965) made his mark in 1999 with his debut novel Marcel, which was awarded several prizes in Belgium and the Netherlands, and received acclaim throughout Europe. In the following years he quickly built up a reputation as of one the leading authors of his generation. His novel While the Gods were Sleeping received the AKO Literature Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the Netherlands. His latest work, Stammered Song Book, a mother’s book of hours,’ a raw yet tender elegy about illness and loss, was met with unanimous praise. Mortier’s evocative descriptions bring past worlds brilliantly to life.