Jahre
Schlagwörter

Transplant Men [Jane Taylor]

"King Lear will tell us about the process of ageing, but changing organs—? Almost nothing tells us about the significance of the transplant."

Genau diese Lücke füllt der Roman The Transplant Men, von dessen ersten Seiten obiges Zitat stammt. Die südafrikanische Schriftstellerin und Literaturprofessorin Jane Taylor erzählt, eingebettet in eine Krimihandlung, die Geschichte des Kapstadter Chirurgen Chris Barnard und der ersten erfolgreichen Herztransplantation

aus der Perspektive eines Mannes, der zu den ersten Empfängern einer Organtransplantation gehört: „It was a moment when we were extraordinary for something other than apartheid“, so lässt sie ihn sagen, „a revolution of ideas took place in that operating theatre; new passions were stirred. We began a journey which has turned the world inside out.“

Taylor, die auch Theaterstücke schreibt und Ausstellungen kuratierte, beschäftigt sich seit den 1980er-Jahren intensiv mit den politischen und gesellschaftlichen Vorgängen in ihrem Land während und nach dem Ende der Apartheid. The Transplant Men verknüpft die Geschichte der ersten gelungenen Herztransplantationen 1967/1968 mit den anderen politischen und kulturellen Ereignissen jener Jahre. So ist der, ebenfalls im Jahr 1968, nur wenige Monate nach den ersten Herztransplantationen, in die Kinos gekommene, legendäre Film 2001: A Space Odyssey von Stanley Kubrick für den Ich-Erzähler ein „missverstandener Film über den Gehirntod.“ Er schreibt über Kubrick und den Film:

Every year, religiously, since the revolution in home video in the late 1980s, I have watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, on the anniversary of Denise Darvall’s accident. The film is Stanley Kubrick’s misunderstood film about brain death. It was released within a few months of the heart transplant, and I am always struck by what seems to me a clear coincidence of ideas. HAL is terminated by an impassive scientist who peers at us from behind a mask. How did Kubrick anticipate the journey which we were undertaking? …
While he was making the film he had followed every scientific adventure. The termination of HAL is surely his comment on the transplant industry. The film was released in the same year that the Harvard Medical School special sub-committee met to discuss the house rules by which to invent the legal category of „brain death“. Heart transplants in the United States could not proceed legally without defining that idea.
In the closing scene ot 2001 we see the rebirth of Dave the space traveller as he passes through extreme old age. He lies decrepit and feeble on his death bed, and raising a hand he points up to a luminous bubble, or amniotic sac, or space capsule in which a foetus floats through space. Inside is a kind of star-child which we surely identify as Dave himself, reborn. Because of Western attitudes to reading, there has been a persistently literal interpretation of the film. Nonetheless that scene still strikes me as an apt metaphor for transplant surgery. Through organ donation we can live again. …
The „Harvard Ad Hoc Committee to Examine the Definition of Brain Death“ reinvented dying for the Americans in 1968. Their resolution states that „a patient is dead when the brain is dead, or when the patient has gone into irreversible coma“. How do we know when the brain is dead? What exactly is an irreversible coma? If we know anything, we know that we do not know. Is it after seven weeks? Seven months? Seven years? Very few would wait seven years before removing the heart. The transplant surgeons were losing patience with losing patients.

Jane Taylor, The Transplant Men, Auckland Park 2009; S. 7f. u. 51f.