“Family secrets.” The Difficulties of Remembering and the Distortion of Memories in a Contemporary Hungarian Novel


  • Krisztina Karizs Hankuk University of Foreign Studies




Distortion of Memories, Identity, Memory Studies, Shame, Trauma.


The 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.


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