Saturday, April 28, 2007

riff on a theme of

"...even remembering Buchenwald is barbaric." found here
The above in its context might mean something entirely other from what jumped out at me when I read that post, which has largely to do with Walter Benjamin and Nabokov, and aesthetics and politics. As fascinating as it is, I can't be sure whether what it means there is close to what this group of words seemed to blurt to me in passing.

We remember things too barbaric to remember. We write, make films, sing, record history. What's odd is Memory, in which we have our being, (according to Augustine among others), is here said to be barbaric qua her basic job description, her thankless toil of transcription.

The unspeakable is never quite unspeakable. Something that awful (name your poison) not only should never have been, but instanter, by the ethos of the drawing room and the awards ceremony, should be barred from memory. Or, another way: The faculty itself, had it any civil sense of decency, should brook no such atrocity. Memory should drown itself before doing such dirty work.
to argue for culture, or make culture’s gestures, is to betray everything culture used to stand for, is as barbarous as any of culture’s enemies have ever been. #
The boarding school girls of Mnemosyne, brood-hen of culture, speak what took place, however unspeakable, dancing. Misshapen hate speech hating to misspeak.

This capacity, caul athwart the fine figure of the man of sensibility - seeking to evade the speaking of his mind - makes him
  • barbaric - (a slave by nature, according to Aristotle) - not by choice not by taste but merely by memory
  • one whose unthought laughs at civility, makes mows,
  • sculpts the inhuman
  • from the starched peruke of good manners.
Prodigious incontinent Memory fails us, failing to forget.


Anonymous phil said...

The traumatic event is not spoken of, becomes lost to consciousness. It surfaces in distorted ways. The weaker the ego, the more it rejects and submerges. How much of the best writing obeys the double impulse to remember and forget, to surface a thought and deform it almost beyond recognition. Civility and memory, ritual and memory. How much could we recover from forgetfulness if only we could write couplets as supple as Pope's?

5/05/2007 7:00 PM  
Anonymous tom said...

Thanks Phil - Is it your sense that we still can lay claim to something that can be called "consciousness" in good conscience? We seem perfectly capable of remembering to forget everything necessary to having any idea of what we are doing, who we are, where we have been, and whither we are going. What's not to like?

5/06/2007 10:23 PM  

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