A Tropical Memory
Two novellas about characters haunted by memories
‘Memory is identity’. That quote from Julian Barnes forms the opening to A Tropical Memory, one of the two novellas that make up Eric Schneider’s extraordinary debut. In both stories the seventy-nine-year-old author shows how important memories are to human life.
Diplomat Ferdy Ardonius travels to the Netherlands, where he will commemorate the end of the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies with his family. This is the first time this traditional gathering will take place without Ferdy’s father, who passed away. Ferdy meets his mother and her ex-lover in a seaside hotel. He is haunted by what happened in August 1945, during the Indonesian War of Independence. What follows is a depiction reminiscent of Tennessee Williams, a verbal spectacle of provocation and affection, of humiliation and hurt.
In the second novella, entitled ‘Firs’, after the character in Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard, an actor is sitting at home. The previous evening he was injured after a performance of the play when the theatre company bus collided with a deer. He stands in front of the mirror and looks at his damaged body. His wife, once a great actress before Alzheimer’s Disease struck, is asleep. He recalls their relationship, her slow destruction by alcohol and the start of her disease. Then there is the secret she divulged to him only in old age. After their lives have flashed past one more time, only one possibility remains.