The Novel as a Philosophy of Remembering

/, Essays, Blesok no. 58/The Novel as a Philosophy of Remembering

The Novel as a Philosophy of Remembering

But, Giorgio Agamben in his lucid book about traumatic experiences and memories of the victims in concentration camps warns: “In the essence of every memory there is an essential emptiness. To speak about the witnessing means to re-examine this very emptiness, to become aware of what is unsaid”. Having that in mind, “Witnessing is not asking for the factual truth of the witnessing, but for its fragile inability to be archived, its exteriority regarding to the archive”.
Namely, in that extreme, “camp” situation, in which the victims of the nazi camps found themselves, two traumas get crossed: the trauma of remembering on one side and on the other, no less frightening, ethically divided, the trauma of presentation/ declaration in front of the others.
It is important to keep in mind the saying that: “Experience, on one side, and how the experience is remembered, on the other, have totally different structures”. (Gabriel Motzkin).
And if it is so on the path of everyday living (no matter how extreme, as the camp experience) – then we can only imagine how the things can go on far more complex literary-esthetic point of the work itself, where the temporal (or the memorial) segment is included and called “authorial imaginative past” by Umberto Eco.
“The past is not consisted in biographic happenings only. The nightmares, the imaginative happiness, the doubts which lead a battle inside each one of us, are also a part of our past. The things, which did not occur in reality, have much bigger meaning to us then those which did happen” – says the Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov (2007).
In that way, a very important question is included in our discussion: about the legitimacy of memories, of their connection with the discourse of power, of the seemingly paradoxical “right to remember”, of the politics of memorizing.
Namely, for some groups of people – victims, fugitives, emigrants, subalterns – memories play a very important role in legitimizing their enquiring (as it is strictly transiting) identity. But the right to remember, unfortunately, is not acquired straightforward, but goes in correlation with the socio-political, socio-cultural power to talk about someone’s experience with its own voice and in its name! The tension between acknowledging/affirmation and denial/negation of the victim’s very sacrifice, at the same time is tension/struggle between remembering (as a right to remember) and oblivion (as taking away the right to remember).
The novel, as a literary genre, can be counted as a sort of witnessing. Even in an essayistic manner we can call it a (narrative) souvenir. A literary remembrance par excellence. Or a literary museum for storing narrative artifacts from the past, which, once esthetically developed, forever turns into (artistic) reality.
But, what can be called a narrative artifact?
Could artifacts be of an olfactory nature, to present very powerful, associatively significant scents, fragrances, aromas, essences? In that case, could we imagine the memory as an olfactory text, an olfactory narrative maybe?
The sense of a smell is the only one directly attached to the brain receptors, that is why it is so suggestive, memorizing, tactical.
In this text, we shall enclose a comparative reading of two recently published novels, one in Macedonian and the other in German literature, each with its own given relations towards the dominant fragrant (olfactory) sensation and its literary perception.
The novel “The Snow in Casablanca” is the first novel work of Kica Bardžieva Kolbe, PhD in philosophy and author of the book “Aegeans”, which explains the philosophic hermeneutics of escapism. In that very book Bardžieva writes: “In the name of the impossible speech of the victims” (Obrad Savić, 2006/7:203): those who are no longer alive. In the precise example it concerns her father, a fugitive from Aegean Macedonia, who died a year before.
In her recently edited column she recalls to their native village, Bapčor, which was held in her father’s memory all his life, without being given the permission to visit and see it again, Bardžieva states: “Today Bapčor is a graveyard, a remembrance, a memory and a mark.” (Dnevnik, 16.09.2007).
It’s about a locality, a certain place from the family memory – a segment from the mutual remembrance, which the author tries to protect literary, in publishing, philosophically, to preserve it for permanent use.
Here it becomes evident the additional, generic dimension or conditionality of the memories, firstly worked out in the instructive enclosure of Melanija Belaj about the significance of the family photograph in the fugitive and dislocated dramas, which took place in the 1990’s in Yugoslavia. Based upon her field investigation, she concludes: “Women showed to be good keepers of memories, as ones which take care of the memories and want to speak more about them then others”. (2006:87).
Truly, as also witnesses Bardžieva, the remembrance and the escapism find themselves in constitutive proportion (the memory is a modus of legitimization of the fugitive as an identity). On the contrary, a confiscation appears, not only in the memories, but in their right to be a referent sign of the identity continuum. It all puts an accent on the immanent existential dramatics of the fugitive narratives!
Therefore, to write about the fugitive’s memories – grows into, not as much a poetic nostalgia, but more in an ethical imperative (“Not to write at all – would mean a greatest treason” – O. Savić, 2006:203)
The letter is a voice of/for the Fugitive! The letter is his – not ephemeral but an eternally given – right to remember!
The letter is a re-animation of the fugitive as a rightful, integral – and not only torn apart, fragmented – being.
As witnessed by Arjun Appadurai, “To the migrant, the memories of what was left behind get a special meaning. When connected with the sense of loss, memories are treated differently”.
Instead of actual, empiric – when migrant’s experiences are concerned (and to which he belongs himself), Appadurai (almost in connection with the Freud revision of memories) – brings in the category of “anticipative memories”.

2018-08-21T17:23:05+00:00 February 25th, 2008|Categories: Literature, Essays, Blesok no. 58|0 Comments