Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Memory and Imagination

Julian Barnes, an English author and the recipient of the 2011 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sense of an Ending, was recently quoted on Maud Newton.

"For the young — and especially the young writer — memory and imagination are quite distinct, and of different categories... These different kinds of truthfulness will be fully apparent to the young writer, and their joining together a matter of anxiety. For the older writer, memory and the imagination begin to seem less and less distinguishable."

Barnes divides remembrances into three varieties: pure (or accurate) memory, filtered or transfigured memory, and fiction. Over time these distinctions become blurred.

"This is not because the imagined world is really much closer to the writer’s world than he or she cares to admit... but for exactly the opposite reason: that memory itself comes to seem much closer to an act of imagination than ever before."

The blending of memory and imagination does not make either less real or less true. I have always thought that memory was an odd construction. Even with photographs and home videos to serve as "proof" or "evidence" of memories, there is still room for interpretation. As time passes, memory even seems to change, and sometimes the true version of memories painted or recounted in a different light looks different the next time you recall it. I've always felt that I am fairly adept at lying, and when I was younger I was often concerned at the ease with which I would bend memories and tell stories, but maybe the word "lying" has just developed negative connotations. Lying and storytelling are not that different and they play a role in both imagination and memory.

Barnes says that "I do not mistrust [memories], rather I trust them as workings of the imagination, as containing imaginative as opposed to naturalistic truth.”

I've never read any of Barnes' novels, but I should look them up. His ideas about truth and imagination are intriguing and if that translates into his writing, I think his books would probably be most interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment