Tiger's Eye: A Memoir by Inga Clendinnen, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Tiger's Eye: A Memoir

Tiger's Eye: A Memoir

by Inga Clendinnen
     
 
"A decade ago...I fell ill.'Fall' is the appropriate word; it is almost as alarming and quite as precipitous as falling in love."

So begins Inga Clendinnen's beautifully written, revelatory memoir exploring the working of human memory and the construction of the self. In her early fifties, Clendinnen, Australia's award-winning

Overview

"A decade ago...I fell ill.'Fall' is the appropriate word; it is almost as alarming and quite as precipitous as falling in love."

So begins Inga Clendinnen's beautifully written, revelatory memoir exploring the working of human memory and the construction of the self. In her early fifties, Clendinnen, Australia's award-winning historian of Mayan and Aztec history, was struck with an incurable liver disease, immobilized and forced to give up formal research and teaching. From her sickness comes a striking realization of literacy's protean possibilities: that writing can be a vital refuge from the debilitation of the body, and that the imagination can blossom as the body is enfeebled.

Exiled from both society and the solace of history, and awaiting the mysterious interventions of medical science, Clendinnen begins to write: about her childhood in Australia, her parents, her neighbors, her own history. In addition to recovering half-forgotten stories — about the town baker and his charming horse, Herbie, about the three elderly, reclusive sisters who let her into their clandestine world — Clendinnen invents new ones to escape the confines of the hospital, with subjects ranging from the jealousies between sisters to a romantic, Kafkaesque encounter on a train. She also traces the physical, mental and moral impacts of her disease, and voices the terrifying drama of bizarre, vivid drug- and illness-induced hallucinations — even one she had during her liver transplant.

Along the way, Clendinnen begins to doubt her own memories, remembering things that she knows cannot have happened and realizing that true stories often produce a false picture of the whole. With her gifts for language and observation, Clendinnen deftly explores and maps the obscure terrain that divides history from fiction and truth from memory, as she tries to uncover the relationship between her former selves and the woman she is now. An exquisite hybrid of humorous childhood recollections, masterful fictions and probing history, Tiger's Eye is a uniquely powerful book about how illness can challenge the self — and how writing can help one define and realize it.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
"Illness casts you out, but it also cuts you free." While this insight may be common among those who have been visited by serious illness, rarely is it offered with the eloquence and honesty found in this work. A noted Australian historian and teacher, Clendinnen (Aztecs: An Interpretation; Reading the Holocaust) not only recounts the details of her life-threatening struggle with severe liver disease, but also intersperses them with personal memoir, short fiction, and Australian history in equal doses. This mixture, along with the sharp, insightful humor and lyrical descriptions Clendinnen describes the experience of recuperation as "the slow, lurching waltz of recovery, step forward, step sideways, step together, step" makes this volume much more memorable than the usual account of a brush with death and subsequent return to not-quite normalcy. Highly recommended for both medical and literary memoir collections. Kay Hogan Smith, UAB Lister Hill Lib., Birmingham Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A hypnotizing memoir exploring depths of severe illness, identity, and memory itself. Clendinnen (Reading the Holocaust, 1999) provides a discursive account of her childhood in Geelong, Australia during WWII, of her parents, and of her current experience fighting against liver disease. The author, whose degenerative illness leaves her prone to hallucinations, first takes the reader on a meandering tour of ephemeral images past and present, including recollections of early-life impressions of animals, folk stories, and the raw sights and sounds of hospital respite. She takes into account the associations behind her train of thought. In one case, while in the hospital, she remembers a girlish fascination with a tiger at the zoo. "I too was in a cage with feeding times and washing times and bars at the sides of my cot, and people coming to stare and prod," she writes. As her memories gain coherence, the reader is drawn into the story of Clendinnen's parents, her childhood, and daily life in the town of Geelong. These are relayed not so much in narrative but in mood and feeling ("When my father was shaving it was warm fragrant, sun-yellow"). The author is at her most engaging when she struggles to shape an accurate picture from memories of her parents-a pursuit that acknowledges the frustration of the parent-child relationship. "We will be able to look directly at them only when death has lifted their shadow from us," she bemoans. Clendinnen moves through her remembrances in a trancelike state, often making use of abstract metaphors (e.g., she describes herself during one period of convalescence as being "held together by shadow knitting"). The result is a powerful and vivid recollection,in the mire of self-absorption. A touching insight into how we build our sense of self.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743206006
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
07/17/2001
Edition description:
1 SCRIBNER
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.72(h) x 1.03(d)

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