Jonathan Ball Publishers has shared an excerpt from The Fifth Mrs Brink, Karina M Szczurek’s soul-baring memoirs of her life before, with and after her marriage to André P Brink.
In the excerpt, Szczurek recounts the days before Brink’s last journey, in February 2015, to accept an honorary doctorate from the Belgian Francophone Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL). He passed away on the aeroplane on the way back to South Africa.
A homage to a marriage cut tragically short by Brink’s death, and a diary of creative dissolution and knitting back together, The Fifth Mrs Brink will satisfy fans of Szczurek and her husband, both old and new.
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There were signs. The grandfather clock stopped at six o’clock while we were away in Belgium in February 2015, never to be rewound by André again. After his death, the first time I glanced at a watch it was also six o’clock. I don’t remember which time zone, but it doesn’t matter. We were slipping through time anyway.
Just before Martin Buysse arrived in Cape Town from Louvain-la-Neuve in January 2015, I was ironing in front of the TV in the lounge when one of the wooden sculptures André had brought back from Mali fell from a loudspeaker next to me. Miraculously, I caught it before it hit the floor and broke. It was the male figure. The woman remained standing. I told André and Martin about it at dinner when we were discussing the reason for Martin’s visit: André was to receive an honorary doctorate from the Belgian Catholic University of Leuven and Martin was his sponsor. It was on his recommendation that André was to be honoured. Neither Martin nor André could understand why I was upset about the incident of the sculpture falling. One just had to glue the figure back on with Prestik. If only it were that simple … The sculpture remained on the chair next to the speaker for many months.
Mid-January, André’s first wife Estelle phoned from Grahamstown to inform us that Leisje, Rob Antonissen’s widow, had died. Rob had been a mentor to André at Rhodes and he considered both him and his wife dear friends. It was because of his having studied at the university in Louvain in the distant past that André was so thrilled about being awarded the honorary doctorate from the same place. I was in bed next to André when he spoke to Estelle and told her, after receiving the news of Leisje’s death, that he would be next. Nonsense, Estelle said and ordered him not to say such things. Later that day, she phoned again and wanted to speak to me, worried why André had sounded so negative. I explained that he was in a lot of pain – his knees were still sore and he had been suffering from shingles for the past month – and I tried to reassure her as much as I could, but in retrospect it was one of those moments when I intuitively knew that André was preparing.