Fourth Estate £7.99
Memory Wall, By Anthony Doerr
The memory of all that...
Sunday 08 January 2012
"You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives." Luis Buñuel's words make for a fitting epigraph to Anthony Doerr's brilliant collection of stories, which explores both the power and the fragility of memory.
Memory is figured as a persistent, even oppressive force: in "Afterworld", a Holocaust survivor is overcome by visions of lost friends; in "The Demilitarized Zone", a middle-aged cuckold is unable to forget his wife's betrayal.
Memory is also shown to be a "pale, perishable thing": in "Village 113", a town disappears beneath the churning Yangtze waters; in "The River Nemunas", an orphaned teenager struggles to recall details of her childhood. The title story concerns an elderly South African woman with dementia; here, Doerr chillingly describes the mental "corrosion" that accompanies the disease, the "cruel erasure" of self that it threatens.
But there are lighter moments. Like Proust, Doerr understands that reminiscences are prompted by the most mundane of things. He lovingly itemises the contents of his characters' homes – their "empty tobacco pouches", their "spatulas and salad forks", their "warped baking sheets and half-used shampoo bottles" – and he describes how each object carries personal significance. In doing so, he shows us that memory can transform the terrain of everyday life into something rich, charged, magical.
Arts & Ents blogs
Under The Skin review: Scarlett Johansson is full-blooded as aloof alien
Doctor Who: Keeley Hawes to star alongside Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman
Boy George: Bad karma
Disney's Frozen is 'very evil' gay propaganda, says Christian pastor
Batman vs Superman costumes: Crotch must be 'appealing but non-confrontational', says designer
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
- 1 Tony Benn meets Ali G: Watch Labour veteran burn Sacha Baron Cohen
- 2 Women do experience two different types of orgasm, study reveals
- 3 Tony Benn dead: Veteran Labour politician passes away at 88
- 4 Malaysia flight MH370: Pitbull song lyrics bear uncanny resemblance to missing plane mystery, according to YouTubers
- 5 Gauthier Soho has ranted against 'food blaggers' - so can we really trust online reviews?