The Republic of Newtonia – on the nature of memory

Here’s an astonishing quote from Crista Wolf, who grew up under the Nazis and spent most of her life under the East German regime. She got to know a thing or two about how power works…

Apparently the approval and support of imagination is something we need in our lives. In other words, we need to be able to play with the possibilities left open. But at the same time something else is going on in us every day, every hour – a creeping, inevitable process of hardening petrification habit. Its particular target is memory.

Everyone carries around a collection of coloured medallions bearing captions, which are partly funny, partly gruesome. On occasion, we take them out and show them to people because we need them to confirm the reassuringly unambiguous feelings that we have that the past events they commemorate.were beautiful, or ugly, good or evil. These medallions are to memory, what ossified lung tissue is to a tubercular patient or prejudices are to morality: once there was life, there, activity, but now they are encapsulated, shut down. Once you were afraid to touch them, you burned your fingers on them. Now they are cool and smooth. Some have been skillfully polished; some especially valuable pieces have cost years of work. Because there is a lot you have to forget, a lot you have to rethink and reinterpret before you can present yourself to advantage on each and every occasion. That’s what we need medallions for. I expect you know what I mean.

Memory is the name we commonly use when we take out these prettily-made craft items and pass them off to people as the genuine article so that we can learn their market value. compare them to what is currently on offer – and assuming they match it – Hear them pronounced the real thing.

It’s from an essay called “Reading and Writing”, in a collection called “The Author’s Dilemma”.


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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