You are what you remember. It’s difficult to imagine being ‘you’ without some access to your remembered life story. But the new science of memory tells us that remembering is just that: a story.
Memories are not stashed away, fully formed, in the vaults of the brain; they are constructed, when needed, according to the demands of the present. And they are soberingly fragile as a result.
You can have vivid memories of things that never happened, and yet you can come away with only the sketchiest recollections of events that actually did.
I pick up a [page of the diary], read it and discover how much detail that was valuable to me I have half forgotten. I can put together a dozen [entries] written perhaps over a dozen years and read them in five minutes, and this contraction of time intensifies the experience.
If only my young self and my old[er] self could shrink time and come together.
What is most distressing is not the half-forgotfulness that hangs over the [entries] like dark matter, but the sense that I can understand the implications of what I am reading better now than I did when I first [conceived] them.
Based on an article ‘Author, Author’ by Michael Holroyd, Saturday Guardian 30.10.10 […] = my substitutions
When I recall, I know I’m not remembering the event itself, but a version of it formed by my last act of remembering it.
My mental home movies, assemblages all, bear little resemblance to any empirical reality. Yet in that fact there’s a kind of freedom. I don’t have to be constrained by particular habits of remembering, I can make myself anew each day. Memory is a kind of storytelling, and I happen to like stories as they contain a rather wonderful, sideways, truth.
In navigating around Cyril I’m often operating as a story teller, talking Cyril back into life. The German word nachglanz feels like an apt world to represent the ephemeral nature of tracing his life through storytelling. It roughly translates as afterglow.
Navigating Cyril isn’t a literal account of biography any more than my own memories are a literal account of my life, yet in the distortions of places, events, time and in generated echoes, I feel I’m getting closer to him.