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Isn’t it odd how people remember things differently?

Ignorance by Milan Kundera

Could I read it in French? Could I get it in French?

A man and a woman meet on returning to their homeland twenty years after they had left; can they retrieve those days. Isn’t it odd how people remember things differently? (I have an answer for this now, Vygotsky).

We always believe that our memories coincide with those of the person we loved; that we experienced the same thing. But that is an illusion.

I imagine reunion with Suzi 20 years on

We had that affair in September 1989. Had that gone differently where might I be now? Married to her and back in Italy? Or in England? In the North West even? Would we have married in 1992 or 93, and rented in London and had children, then moved out to the country or back to the North ? Perhaps out towards Alnwick?

If you play this game how much damage, like ‘The Woman Next Door,’ Francois Truffaut’s film, can you do?

I like how he talks about an adolescent girl’s experience of love, where experience of her first relationship when played out in a similar manner with her second lover gives her confidence, rather than making her feel repugnant.

For me I tried to play out a familiar course of action that for her was to some degree novel, to some degree familiar. Where we to meet 20 years on … as we did 5 years on, would be play out for nostalgia’s sake a set of actions until we fell into the obvious role model of mates, of mating mates, of loves reunited.

She lives abroad and can excuse her self for a few weeks … even for a return trip.

Then an idea that touches on my efforts with ‘The Contents of My Brain’ (TCMB)


‘If someone could retain in his memory everything he had experienced, if he could at any time call up any fragment of his past, he would be nothing like human beings; neither his loves nor his friendships nor his angers nor his capacity to forgive or avenge would resemble ours’. Kundera.

You see, it cannot be done. Vygotsky has spoilt my fun. It is true, then even as you recall a memory it changes. As an exercise I’m reflecting on my visualisation of stories my grandfather told me as a boy about being a machine-gunner in the First World War. I can picture exactly how my image of him in a pill box shifted over the period of 25 years as I went from the impressions of a six year old to a man in his 30s who had studied the period. I listen back to recordings of him talking with sets of recently published photographs from the Imperial War Museum. The only step I can take now would be to spend a week a few miles out into a wasteland of torn trees and shattered bodies.

Memory is only capable of retaining a paltry little scrap of the past, and no one knows why just this scrap and not some other one, since in each of us the choice occurs mysteriously, outside our will or our interests.

Reality is no longer what it was when it was.

What he did, and what he thought he did, or wants to believe he did is very different to what happened, or even what she thought had happened. The reality they both tried to recall had been different for both of them and their memories of it were different too.

With Josef and Irene, after twenty years apart living different lives, she remembers everything while he remembers nothing.

A family (couple)… by tacit and unconscious consent leave vast areas of their life unremembered, and they talk time and time again about the same few events out of which they weave a join narrative that, like a breeze in the boughs, murmurs above their heads and reminds them constantly that they have lived together. (Milan Kundra, C36, P127 Ignorance).

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