Does Literature Capture a Moment?

5 09 2012

The truth about memory and the novel

By Richard Lea

The International Forum on the Novel produced intriguing theories about the relationship between fact, fiction and forgetfulness – as far as I can remember.

I’m trying to remember what Orhan Pamuk said about memory and the novel in The Museum of Innocence … or maybe it was in The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist. I’m trying to remember it partly because I don’t have a copy of either book to hand – if only I had them on a Kindle – but mostly because memory and fiction, and the distortions of memory in fiction, is pretty much exactly what we were talking about at the International Forum on the Novel.

It was a couple of weeks back, and like my reading of Pamuk, the event has already begun to subside into the fog – the French psychoanalyst Caroline Eliacheff, one of the writers on the panel that night,  isn’t the only one to suffer from a poor memory. But I’m sure Swiss novelist Bernard Comment started off with a claim that for him writing is a “stubborn regaining of the past”, an attempt “to engrave time somewhere”, despite its “relentless flow” partly because he wrote that bit down, or engraved it, if you prefer, right here. The Polish writer Hubert Klimko agreed that as a novelist he fights a daily battle against “memory … also against time”, but went on to claim that for the novelist, the most important memories are those you make up. He said he called Les Toutes Premières Choses a “novel” precisely to blur the question of how much or how little of his life story he had invented – while insisting that the three wildly different and increasingly baroque accounts of the day he was born were “nothing but the truth”, as he claims in the introduction, since he remembered each one of them clearly.

Continue reading @ The Guardian

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