The Persistence of Memory Summary (Tony Eprile)

Tony Eprile

The Persistence of Memory

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Set in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa , Tony Eprile's The Persistence of Memory opens with seven-year-old Paul Sweetbread, miserably attending a private primary school, where students tease him because of his weight and social oddities. He discovers at this early age that he has a photographic memory which begins to curse him during school, as teachers punish him for cheating, when in reality he can picture the complete text in his mind.

Divided into three sections, the book jumps to Paul's teen years and conscription into the South African army. Again, he is tormented by his peers, and degraded by his superiors, for lacking physical fitness and allegiance. Paul finds refuge and admiration in the kitchen, when he becomes the mess hall cook; serving his delicious creations, and vengeance on his enemies by undercooking their meals.

The novel concludes with Sweetbread returning home after a stay in a mental hospital. His perfect memory serves as a curse and a healing tool, when his testimony is requested at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing, to determine whether his commanding officer committed war crimes. He must relive his involvement in the secret war between Namibia and Angola, and the war time atrocities and acts of racism in which he unwillingly partook.

Through a wonderfully relaxed use of prose, Eprile offers an intriguing look into the experiences of one man and his memories, in a country trying to forget its shameful and secret past.