Not only was the operation unsuccessful, it affected his vision, and his eyes came to see differently from each other. Birthmark explores the questions raised by living with divided vision in a divided world—the world of South Africa under apartheid, where every view was governed by the markings of birth, the accidents of color, race, and skin. But what were the effects on the mind? Clingman's book engages a number of questions. How, in such circumstances, can we come to a deeper kind of vision? How can we achieve wholeness and acceptance? How can we find our place in the midst of turmoil and change?
In a beguiling narrative set on three continents, this is a story that is personal, painful, comic, and ultimately uplifting: a book not so much of the coming of age but the coming of perspective.
"Birthmark is a profound reflection on vision and identity. Clingman examines his own perspectives and their origins. How did I come to see this way? How does this way of seeing shape the person I am? Can it be changed?—Ivan Vladislavic, author of Portrait with Keys: The City of Johannesburg Unlocked and winner of the Windham Campbell Award
"When one reads Clingman's memoir, with the thoroughly appropriate title, Birthmark, it soon becomes evident that this leading academic, like J. M. Coetzee, has an exceptional gift for making the most of the memoir as genre."—Netwerk24
"Stephen Clingman, the acclaimed critic and biographer, has turned his acute eye and limpid prose to a subject much nearer at hand—his own coming of age in the final decades of apartheid. In mid-century Johannesburg, "born into light, the most beautiful soft and bright sunlight of the most beautiful place on earth" (6), Clingman ponders mysteries of identity, origin, migration, vision, visibility—how one sees and is seen—attempting answers to perennial, hard questions."—African Studies Review