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Jonathan Ball

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“If I wanted to truly take care of my and André’s stories, I had to find a home for them elsewhere” – Karina Szczurek on writing The Fifth Mrs Brink

Karina M. Szczurek’s soul-baring memoirs of her life before, with and after her marriage to André P. Brink details a year of widowhood and a love to last a lifetime.

This is the book which shows decisively that Karina is a writer in her own right, still coming in to her full creative powers, and simultaneously silences any gossips who might still have disbelieved Karina and André Brink’s love for one another.

A homage to a marriage cut tragically short by Brink’s death, in 2015 at 79 years old, and a diary of creative dissolution and knitting back together, The Fifth Mrs Brink combines enough literary skinner, salacious detail and moving romantic description of dealing with the death of a loved one to satisfy fans of her and her husband, both old and new.

Read an extract from Karina’s poignant blog entry about her process of writing and publishing The Fifth Mrs Brink:

I finished the first draft of The Fifth Mrs Brink in July. In September, I asked for the rights to my book back. I had to leave; I had no way of staying. If I wanted to truly take care of my and André’s stories, I had to find a home for them elsewhere. I submitted my memoir to another publishing house. They made me an offer. My new publisher gave me a book she thought might interest me: Second-Hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich, an account of how people survive, and make sense of, tyranny and massacres – by weaving tapestries of stories to keep us safe at night.

The words of Second-Hand Time live in my bones.

In the evening of the 1st of November, someone asked me online which great writer I would like to have tea with. There is only one: The One. He liked his tea white with two sugars. And when he wanted to spoil me, he baked scones for us for breakfast.

I don’t know what I dreamt in the night of the 1st of November, but I know I slept through it. That in itself is a gift, a good omen. Uninterrupted sleep had become rare in the past few months, although I am mastering it again. In the morning of the 2nd, I had a scone at my favourite coffee shop. I drove to Woodstock in the little car that a friend lent me after my accident. I parked underneath the big red building, found my way upstairs to the 4th floor where kind people were waiting.

It is perhaps fitting that the publication of The Fifth Mrs Brink will be delayed by a few months next year to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the first time I became a refugee when my family escaped the tyranny of Communist Poland and sought asylum in Austria.

Arriving on the doorstep of Jonathan Ball Publishers, I felt like a refugee who had sailed through treacherous waters in a derelict dinghy and found her way to the shores of a safe haven. With only my ancient fountain pen in the bag I carried, I was seeking asylum again.

Massacres and tyranny can be intimate, private, go nearly unnoticed.

I am not the only one who survives by telling stories.

My stories are safe now.

The Fifth Mrs Brink will be released on July 17 and is available for pre-order.

 

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