16.6.05

Memory ...

Memory is the only paradise we cannot be expelled from ... ascribed to Jean Luc Godard in the previous post, may not have originated with him. I came across it in Alan Brunton's script Grooves of Glory, published by Bumper Books, with two other performance scripts, in a book of the same title in 2004. But a Google search suggests it was the German writer Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, usually known as Jean Paul, who said it. Alan may have deliberately mis-ascribed the quotation, which occurs in dramatic dialogue. Or Godard may have been quoting Richter, with or without acknowledgment. Provenance aside, what does it mean? It came into my mind, perhaps, because of something David Hilbert wrote: No-one shall expel us from the paradise Cantor has created for us. Both remarks are full of irony. Cantor's mathematical paradise, while certainly fruitful for those who have continued his work, is vertiginous, intoxicating, fearful, enigmatic, in about equal degrees for the lay person. Memory as a paradise may be similarly described. We can be both tortured and exalted by things we recall. And isn't memory itself a record of something already gone, a paradise lost? Isn't it the case that we cannot be expelled from that paradise because we have left it already? Or should we look at it another way, and say that memory is a paradise because it endures in a way that the evanescent events it recalls never can? Another thing that was in my mind as I wrote yesterday was Jean Vengua's site Mnemosyne's Hem where Mnemosyne is currently doing battle, as it were, with Lethe. What if we were to say Forgetting is the only the paradise we cannot be expelled from? I've toyed for years now with a paradoxical description of what writing can be: We remember in order to write but we write to forget. I've wanted to ascribe this insight to its author and quote it as an epigraph to a book, but I haven't worked out yet who said it. I don't think it was Jean Luc or Jean Paul. It might have been one of Pessoa's heteronyms, but which one? Alexander Search? No, it would have to have been said by Bernardo Soares who was, I now recall, only a semi-heteronym. And maybe after all I've misquoted him, maybe what he really said was: We forget in order to write but we write to remember.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

It certainly is Jean Paul.
I'm German and it's even famous saying.
In German it is called:
"Die Erinnerung ist das einzige Paradies, aus dem man nicht vertrieben werden kann."