Responsibility in Place: Marlene van Niekerk’s Memorandum: A Story With Paintings

Wednesday, 21 February, 2018 - 12:30

Responsibility in Place: Marlene van Niekerk’s Memorandum: A Story With Paintings

What does it mean to write as a form of responsibility? How does the writer deal with voices, her own and others? In Marlene van Niekerk’s novel Memorandum. A Story with Paintings the lonely pencil pusher JP Wiid is in a late stage of liver cancer when he starts to write about a strange conversation he overheard one night at the hospital. The text becomes a story of his life as well as the history and place of nursing technologies, architecture and birds’ nests. Detailed oil paintings of a  hospital interior are interleaved in the novel, as documents from an artificial home for the suffering body. From this novel, and van Niekerks other works, I reflect on writing as a practice with boundaries that need to be shifted or transcended to highlight something called responsibility, or even love. In the experience of writing as negotiation the power of aesthetics and the implications of ethics articulate intricate questions for the writer to respond to. The place of writing is a place of immense freedom and great uncertainty, always subject to the writer’s understanding of her place in the world.

Tuesday, 20th February 2018

WiSER Seminar Room,
6th Floor, Richard Ward Building,
East Campus, Wits University


Elisabeth Hjorth is a writer, researcher and teacher in Creative Writing at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. She received her Ph.D in Ethics from Uppsala University in 2015. In 2017, she published the novel "Nattens regn och dagens möda" (Night rain and the laborious day) and the translation of the poem collection "I feed the war with those I love". She is currently working on a project in artistic research called "The Double Bind. The novel as (peace)negotiation".


All welcome.

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