Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt - review by Carol Rumens

Carol Rumens

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman

Memories of the Future


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‘Years ago I left the wide, flat fields of rural Minnesota for the island of Manhattan to find the hero of my first novel,’ writes Siri Hustvedt at the beginning of Memories of the Future. An experimental bildungsroman tracing the emergence of the writer-as-a-young-woman, it combines what appears to be straight memoir, notebook and diary material, autobiographical fiction and, just possibly, fictional fiction. Organising her 94-year-old mother’s move to assisted housing, the adult Hustvedt describes the discovery of notebooks she kept as a young woman forty years earlier, which include drafts of a novel. This subtly embedded inciting incident might be documentary fact or literary device – or a little of each. The reader has simply to play along, enjoying the deft and elegant writing while appreciating Hustvedt’s timely exploration of questions about authenticity, memory and demarcations of literary genre.

Sexual relationships and the discovery of heroes, genuine and imagined, are among the important challenges for the young S H. Aged twenty-three, lodging in New York for a year of self-discovery before taking up a fellowship at Columbia, she has a need for role models as well as heroes. Whitney

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