Thursday, 24 November 2016

Waiting for Columbus - Thomas Trofimuk

The year?  Well, hard to say but somewhere a few years before Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic, funded by Spain.  That is what the patient in the mental asylum in Seville, Spain, says.  He was found washed up on the coast of Spain in dreadful shape, lucky to be alive, but  mentally damaged.  He begins to tell his story and he is Columbus, he has the ear of Queen Isobella, eventually he will get ships.  He will sail across the Atlantic.  He knows this, and yet it cannot be.  The first doctor who sees him is not long for his job, when it is found that has sexual enounters in his office with the nursing staff.  So it is only Consuela, a nurse, who at first listens, taking notes and falling in love with the romance of the tales he tells, and of course with the patient himself.

Later, a new doctor takes over the case.  He is more diligent and he knows that Columbus is only Columbus because his mind has completely obliterated something else, and work has to be done to get that memory back, hopefully get the patient to forget Columbus, and get him back to sanity.

I was irritated at first, because Columbus mentions mobile phones, televisions and all those things that we know and love now, but that for the fourteenth century would have been witchcraft and heresy, and a visit from the Inquisition.  But once I took stock, knowing that the patient in question was not actually Columbus, but just a deeply disturbed man who had put himself in the shoes of the man, I began to understand more how a damaged brain might  work, and was filled with dread for him and what his mind had covered up.

Despite some of the reviews on Amazon (and this will always be a true Marmite book), I liked it very much.  I understood that we were inside the mind of a man who had re-invented himself so as to cover some deep hurt or shock, and after the first mentions of items out of place in Columbus' time, I just rolled with it.  The final chapters and the epilogue reveal all, and were shocking, but expected.  Just as a novel it was a great read for me,  but as an example of a particular mental condition, it was an eye-opener.

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