The all-consuming love of a father for his daughter and for literature
Post Mortem, a new highlight in his work, is the first of Terrin’s novels to be centred on a dramatic event in his own life. The book is a crafty interplay of imagination and reality, taking the reader on a trip through a literary hall of mirrors. A surprising narrative situation is at the root of this literary tour de force.
Emiel Steegman, an unknown writer with touches of Peter Terrin, is seeking a way to escape a compulsory dinner with Estonian colleagues. Although things are plodding along quite happily, he cancels at the last moment ‘due to a rather difficult time for the family’.
A nasty feeling immediately comes over him: is he inviting trouble for his family in doing so? And what if a biographer stumbled on this? Would he not then suspect that something significant had happened in his life? The thought gives him a great idea for a new novel about a successful author, T, who becomes famous with an existential crime novel and increasingly worries about what his future biographer will write about him, so he withdraws entirely from public life.
And so Terrin sets the stage for his double play with fiction and reality. Because fate does strike. One afternoon, his daughter Renée falls asleep and it is impossible to wake her. In the hospital she is diagnosed with a brain stroke. Fiction overtakes reality. In this second part of this novel, Steegman describes the weeks following the stroke. It is a blow for blow account of the hospital life Steegman’s family is leading at that moment.
In the third part, the narrative situation shifts surprisingly to the biography of Steegman, who has by then gained international fame with the novel ‘T’. The biographer watches home videos of and with Steegman and Renée, who is working hard on her convalescence, in the hope of discovering more about Steegman’s secret, which concerns the murder or suicide of a woman Steegman knew in his youth and whom he describes in ‘T’. But is that death fact or fiction? And how is Steegman trying to influence his biographer by sending him videos?
Post Mortem is an equally intense and ingenious novel about a writer’s inspiration, a father’s love for his daughter and a man’s fear of losing his life after his death.
- winner AKO Literature Prize 2012