Eprile, Tony 1955(?)-
EPRILE, Tony 1955(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1955, in Johannesburg, South Africa; immigrated to United States, 1972; son of a newspaper editor and activist; married Judith D. Schwartz (an author); children: Brendan. Education: Connecticut College, B.A.; Brown University, M.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—Bennington, VT. Agent—c/o Author Mail, W. W. Norton, Inc., 500 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Writer and professor of creative writing. University positions include Northwestern University, Bennington College, and Skidmore College, 2003-04.
AWARDS, HONORS: New York Times notable book citation, 1989, for Temporary Sojourner, and Other South African Stories; grants from National Endowment for the Arts and Ingram Merrill Foundation.
Temporary Sojourner, and Other South African Stories, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989.
The Persistence of Memory (novel), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of short stories and poetry to periodicals, including Tarpaulin Sky Prose.
SIDELIGHTS: Tony Eprile was born in South Africa to Jewish immigrant parents. He grew up in Johannesburg in a home where his parents actively worked against apartheid, the violence of which tends to inform all of his fiction. Some of Eprile's work describes the expatriate experience, while other writings draw upon his background as a Jewish liberal South African. Whatever his themes, he has proven to be "a South African voice that is radically different from the ones that many Western readers have come to know," to quote Susie Linfield in Newsday. Linfield went on to note that Eprile's "greatest gift (not his curse) is the delineation of precise, beautifully evocative details."
In The Persistence of Memory, Eprile's first novel, narrator Paul Sweetbread cannot escape from his vivid memories or his experience of unwitting complicity in martial atrocities. Paul begins his tale with his recollections of being a childhood outcast, overweight and closely tied to his depressed mother, sent into psychoanalysis to ease the trauma of finding his father a suicide victim. With many digressions into the political views of South African white intellectuals, gourmet cooking, and the privileges of wealth, Paul eventually confronts the central nightmare of his life: as a conscript to an all-white unit, he witnesses torture and massacres during South Africa's secret war with Namibia. Called to describe his experiences before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he finds himself accused of the one fault he could never claim: a distorted memory.
New York Times Book Review correspondent Theo Tait wrote: "Like the commission's hearings, 'The Persistence of Memory' is a mixture of indictment, therapy and confession. Paul is a burdened, divided character: weighed down by the past and by his own gargantuan frame, torn between his agitated liberal conscience and the desire to prove himself as a loyal 'good South African.' His morals prompt him to remember, but to survive as a person—to recover from what is diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder—he also needs to forget." Tait went on to describe The Persistence of Memory as "a humane, rich and very personal book."
Most critics welcomed The Persistence of Memory as an important addition to South African literature in English. A Publishers Weekly critic cited the work for its "acrobatic, erudite prose," noting that Eprile has written "a clever, bitingly human bildungsroman." Richard Eder observed in the New York Times: "For Mr. Eprile, truth is ineluctable, but that doesn't mean it makes you free. Unshackling a broken body may undo it even more; it is the only way to heal but the healing is uncertain. So, at the end of the book, is South Africa's." According to Frances Taliaferro in the Washington Post Book World, the novel offers "a magnanimous introduction to a South Africa we haven't quite encountered." Library Journal contributor Kellie Gillespie described The Persistence of Memory as a "haunting story," while Tait concluded that Eprile "has written a novel that is not just clever but also a passionate fictional attempt to wake from a nightmare of historical complicity."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of The Persistence of Memory, p. 1544.
Jewish Week, July 16, 2004, Sandee Brawarsky, "Remembering the Homeland."
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2004, review of The Persistence of Memory.
Library Journal, May 15, 2004, Kellie Gillespie, review of The Persistence of Memory, p. 114.
Newsday, August 5, 2004, Susie Linfield, "Total Recall in a South Africa Forgetful of Its Own History."
New York Times, July 30, 2004, Richard Eder, "The Irredeemable Guilt of Good Intentions," p. E38.
New York Times Book Review, August 8, 2004, Theo Tait, "Truth and Reconciliation," p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, June 21, 2004, review of The Persistence of Memory, p. 45.
Washington Post Book World, June 13, 2004, Frances Taliaferro, "Laughter and Forgetting," p. 4.