“Family secrets.” The Difficulties of Remembering and the Distortion of Memories in a Contemporary Hungarian Novel
Keywords:Distortion of Memories, Identity, Memory Studies, Shame, Trauma.
AbstractThe concept of memory and the process of remembering is an interesting and important topic in numerous theoretical and literary works since ancient Greece. Memory studies connect scholars from different fields such as philosophy, literary theory, cognitive and neuroscience, and psychology, while the uncharted processes of our brain and the often paradoxical characteristics of memories have inspired writers throughout the world. Their work and research resulted in — among others — autobiographies, family novels, or trauma fiction. In my research, I concentrate on the psychological aspects of memory studies and analyse how certain disturbances in the process of remembering and ‘special’ mental states (such as dissociation or post-traumatic stress disorder) form or deform narrative and result in particular narrative strategies. In my current paper, I analyse a contemporary family novel by a famous Hungarian writer, Krisztián Grecsó, Mellettem elférsz (There is space beside me), which was published in 2011. The plot concerns the life of a young man who attempts to imbue his life with meaning, and while doing so, seeking out the lost memories of his ancestors. In my analysis, I propose three core problems: Firstly, I give a brief description of the connection between memories and personal identity and examine if exact knowledge of the past is needed to retain a stable identity. Secondly, I argue if it is possible to retrieve the aforementioned knowledge. And lastly, I analyse the variables that possibly cause the disturbance in remembering and the distortion of the family history as pictured by Grecsó in his novel.
Bergson, H., (1991). Matter and Memory. New York: Zone Books.
Caruth, C., (1995). Trauma: Explorations in Memory. (pp. 3–12). Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
Freeman, M., (2010). Telling Stories: Memory and Narrative. In Susanna Radstone and Bill Schwarz (Eds.), Memory. Histories, theories, debates (pp. 263–281). New York: Fordham University Press.
Freud, S., (1991). A Note upon the “Mystic Writing-pad”. In Angela Richards (Ed.) On Metapsychology: The theory of Psychoanalysis. The Penguin Freud Library Vol. 11. (pp. 429–434). London: Penguin.
Gazzaniga, M., (1998). The Mind’s Past. Berkeley: University of California Press. Kennedy, Roger (2010). Memory and the Unconscious. In Susanna Radstone and Bill Schwarz (Eds.), Memory. Histories, theories, debates (pp. 179–198). New York: Fordham University Press.
Leiris, M., (1984). Manhood: A Journal from Childhood into the Fierce Order of Virility. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Rossington, M. & Whitehead, A., (2007). Theories of Memory. The Reader. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
Sutton, J.; Harris, C. B. & Barnier, A. J. (2010). Memory and Cognition. In Susanna Radstone and Bill Schwarz (Eds.), Memory. Histories, theories, debates (pp. 209–227). New York: Fordham University Press.
Tomkins, Silvan S. (1987). Shame. In Donald L. Nathanson (Ed.), The Many Faces of Shame (pp. 133–161). New York: Guilford.
Van der Kolk, Bessel A. – van der Hart, Onno (1995). The Intrusive Past: The Flexibility of Memory and the Engraving of Trauma. In Cathy Caruth (Ed.), Trauma. Exploration in Memory (pp. 158–183). Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
Warnock, M., (1987). Memory. London and Boston: Faber.
Wilson, Barbara A. (1998). ‘When Memory Fails’. In Patricia Fara and Karalyn Patterson (Eds.), Memory (pp. 113 – 133). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grecsó, Krisztián (2011). Mellettem elférsz. Budapest: Magvető.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).