In a certain conversation, Mauricio Wiesenthal alluded to one of the differences that separates the United States and Europe. supports this American homes were dominated by the Ikea culture of modern kitchenware, and European homes, despite wars and successive decades of impoverishment, still held the memory of previous centuries in this random decanting of furniture, photographs, jewelry, various costumes, and objects of varying texture that have been handed down from one generation to another. The writer defends the extraordinary importance of this heritage when we look at our roots and unwittingly joins Camilo José Sella. The Nobel Prize for Literature, like him, placed extreme importance on the things that survived the turmoil of his time, and also on those that we accumulated during our life’s journey.
Maria Stepanova participates in this idea in this essay and emphasizes the deep dimension of objects apparently devoid of relief and which sometimes represent nothing more than the process of abandonment. In his book “In memory of memory» (Cliff) traces the path of his ancestors, a Jewish family, throughout the turbulent Russian 20th century. A story that shares parallels with another new feature this quarter, Rosa Masur’s Special Memory (Impedimenta). But if Valdimir Vertlieb, the author of this title, chose the physiognomy of the novel, Stepanova undertakes this emotional and historical journey from the thoughts suggested by that disorderly mass of letters and portraits that have reached her.
Stepanova’s book, one of the best bets presented in the last period of the year, enjoys an involuntary opportunity in a society like ours devoid of attachment to objects and this leads to the emptying of homes by embracing so much technology without any critical perspective. Spotify removed the records; “email”, to letters and postcards; readers to books; computers, notebooks and pens, and video games are on their way to toys in the corner in the storage room. Homes today can be as pristine and transparent as a set from Stanley Kubrick. Even gifts have shed their skin and today there is a wide range of experience packages: weekends abroad, adventure trips and similar offers… which undoubtedly reduces the human footprint of what is commonly called friendship. What was once old has now been commoditized under the heading of ‘antiques’ and the thrift economy is driving young people to that pop hit that is the Billy shelf. Instagram, to which Stepanova devotes a precise analysis, replaced the family photo album with a series of snapshots of sweetened happiness, which are far from suggesting a kind of postmodern memory.
In this age of crossroads, Stepanova’s essay is enlightening, intelligent, and timely. It gives a new letter to the nature of the material. For her, this is a fair starting point for a deeper exploration of what memory is, its inherent challenges, the commitments it involves, and the importance it has in keeping us from forgetting. It is not without reason that he sees in these fragments an extraordinary testimony to take root among those who preceded us, and at the same time it is a suitable shipyard to relive the traumas, experiences, hesitations, mistakes, testimonies and catastrophes that plagued the lives before ours. This particular concept leads her to claim objects as active memory, not dead, which helps to reconstruct a shared and personal past, because for her “there is no more important occupation than the search for lost time”.
Stepanova begins this reconstruction with an insightful reflection on memory in history and points out that before the advent of mechanical reproduction, it was the exclusive privilege of the wealthy classes who could afford the expense of investing in a portrait to immortalize the faces of their members. He glimpses these paintings, the same ones that hang in museums or on the aristocratic walls of palaces and homes of the wealthiest bourgeoisie, a prerogative that was violated with the democratizing entry of photography, which served to put memory within reach. the humblest layers.
Stepanova alternates her meditations with the different chapters her relatives have experienced: pogroms, persecutions, wars, invasions, the siege of Leningrad, with the humiliating degradation that resulted, and the Soviet dictatorship and its imagined torments. During this stream of events, he wonders about our ability to be true to the past and reconstruct what happened only through the remnants we retain. But at the same time, she is drawn by a family or cultural obligation to reconstruct what happened and save the names from the bad indifference of time. Perhaps Stepanova is right when she claims that “each era generates a special kind of dust that eventually settles on all its surfaces,” but above all, history seems to side with her when she slides her vision over the memory that those of we attendees will leave behind: difficult records that no one will read and exhausting banks of images that no one will care about