Sunday, November 06, 2005

The role of memory and not remembering

You would be hard pressed to find two ideas that fascinate me than those of memory and forgetting. I'm not just talking about how they pertain to my studies; in fact, my obsession* with remembrance and forgetting predates my going to college by quite some time. The awakening of this fascination can — or at least I think it can, and I'm in the best position to know! — be traced back to when I was sixteen and one half years old. The reason will be obvious to some. (It involves this.)

I just finished Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, which was a stimulating read once I got into it. By "once I got into it," I mean "once I reread the introduction and first three chapters twice and felt like I was actually starting to understand things." It deals with the "imagined communities" of nationalism and how they came to be. Anyway, Anderson's book has much to do with my aforementioned interest, although in a way I hadn't much thought of memory before. Its last chapter is entitled "Memory and Forgetting." Very nice.

This has me thinking about books I've read or reread of late and in which I have particularly noticed the role of memory/forgetting. I'm going to list those that stand out the most. Anderson, obviously, is the most recent addition!

Retrato en sepia by Isabel Allende. (English translation Portrait in Sepia.)
Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson. Note: I'm working with the revised edition of 1991.
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum.
Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr (and its sequel to a lesser extent) by Garth Nix.
Phaedrus** by Plato.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.

A condensed explanation of the way I think on this matter: memory is a gift, no matter how much it can feel like a curse; it is at once both terrible and beautiful. It wields tremendous power.

*I do not think obsession is an exaggeration; this is a topic I think about constantly.
**Phaedrus interests me because of the Theuth myth, which I found by way of Dissemination.