Stammered Songs

An overwhelming portrait of his mother’s deterioration

‘My mother gave me a dusting today. She thought I was furniture.’ Gestameld liedboek (Stammered Songs) 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.

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 finds himself utterly incapable of writing – until he began work on this book.

Gestameld liedboek 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.

Erwin Mortier has excelled himself. This is more than just immensely touching confessional literature about Alzheimer’s disease. It is an essential book. Overwhelming. Mortier unearths at least one diamond on every page.

De Standaard

Erwin Mortier captures his mother’s dementia in sensitive and elegant prose. The splendid sentences in which he frames her deterioration in fact produce an unexpectedly stark effect.



Gestameld liedboek (2011). Fiction, 190 pages.


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