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An overwhelming portrait of a mother’s deterioration

Stammered Songbook

Erwin Mortier

‘Stammered Songbook’ is one of those rare books that grab you by the throat from the first sentence and never let go. After Erwin Mortier's mother falls victim to Alzheimer's disease at the age of 57, he becomes the chronicler of her slow deterioration. His observations and meditations are couched in the scintillating, lyrical prose that has become his trademark.

In arresting images and sentences like strung pearls, he traces the slow breakdown of his mother's mind and its impact on her husband and children. The patient and those who love her enter a shadowy realm between life and death, narration and disintegration, language and silence. The resulting book is a fragmentary portrait of his mother's illness.

It’s written with this precision, tenderness and sense of desolation
Julian Barnes

The stammerer in this story is not only the mother, as language gradually slips away from her, but also the author, so distraught by his mother’s condition that he found himself utterly incapable of writing – until he began work on this book.

‘Stammered Songbook’ is not solely about mourning, but also about language, and above all about love. Mortier's book is an essential, universal lament, bitter and razor-sharp yet pure and sublime in its beauty.

Superb, staggering and even more. A work of considerable significance.
Mortier digs at least one diamond each page
De Standaard