Tigers Eye: A Memoir Inga Clendinnen

ISBN: 9781876485559

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Tigers Eye: A Memoir  by  Inga Clendinnen

Tigers Eye: A Memoir by Inga Clendinnen
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In her early 50s, Australian historian Inga Clendinnen fell ill with acute liver disease. Fall is the appropriate word, she writes. It is ... like falling down Alices rabbit hole into a world which might resemble this solid one, but which operates on quite different principles. Her imaginative, unconventional memoir mirrors the hallucinatory nature of this world as she mingles reminiscences, fiction, hospital sketches, and family profiles to chart the course of her physical and mental life from diagnosis through a successful liver transplant and recovery.

Anyone who has ever been in a hospital will recognize the frail, vulnerable, disoriented state of mind she evokes in describing her time there. Yet Clendinnen also displays biting humor (especially in portraits of fellow patients) and an almost mystical sense of purpose as she seizes on writing as the tool to make sense of her situation.

Childhood memories loom large, many invoking the beauty of the natural world, ever-present and overwhelming in rural Australia. Presiding over that childhood, her proud, stoical, impenetrable mother provided me with an inspiriting mystery: the obdurate opacity of other beings--and sparked, Clendinnen believes, her lifelong pursuit of historical mysteries.But the experience of being seriously ill dominates this text.

The title comes from her determination to emulate a zoo tiger she admires because he refuses to acknowledge his imprisonment: I too was in a cage, with feeding times and washing times and bars at the side of my cot, and people coming to stare and prod ... whenever I felt the threat of the violation of self, I would invoke the vision of the tiger. For all the grim candor with which she evokes physical deterioration, Clendinnen also persuasively conveys her discovery that illness casts you off, but it also cuts you free ... the clear prospect of death only makes living more engaging.

--Wendy Smith



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