Patricia Duncker

Memory Slain

Forgetfulness: Making the Modern Culture of Amnesia

By

Bloomsbury Academic 185pp £13.99 order from our bookshop

This provocative and engaging little book should be read as a personal essay. Francis O’Gorman makes his own voice and lived experience visible, which transforms his argument into a conversation with the reader. Thus, controversial and surprising ideas are presented with the armchair authority of a scholarly gentleman. The personal voice provides the illusion of presence and spontaneity, of someone thinking on paper before us. O’Gorman doesn’t provide extensive evidence and scatters his high-minded learning across the narrative. He manages to be both erudite and accessible, which is something of a feat.

Forgetting and remembering, both for cultures and for individuals, are Janus-faced. One suggests the other. O’Gorman’s primary focus is on what is widely considered to be the suspect concept of ‘collective memories’ and our irresponsible abandonment of them and the values they embody. Historical memory and place are intimately connected. He begins with a hole in the ground at Mycenae, supposedly the tomb of Agamemnon. Was it? How reliable was Heinrich Schliemann, the 19th-century archaeologist who first excavated the site? And was the death mask found in that tomb really the image of Agamemnon? The ancient Greeks treasured memory; they revered the stories of their ancestors as vital histories, a past that informed their present.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • He weeps by the side of the ocean, He weeps on the top of the hill; He purchases pancakes and lotion, And chocolate… ,
    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,