Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cultural Amnesia

But perhaps, if one could remember everything, one would be damned indeed. In the last few weeks of a slow dying, it might be better to forget. One hopes that there will be a saving mechanism to it, a kind of mental economy. In my prime I thought that H.L. Mencken's fate -semantic aphasia- was the most cruel affliction for a man who had given his life to words: a punishment for love. But from the inside looking out it might have felt like a release.

A release from memories of beauty might be just the ticket: what else, after all, would they do, except long for what you can't have, more life? Perhaps we will forget what was lovely and remember what was true. Already, at no great age, I sometimes fancy that I can feel that happening.

"Eugenio Montale," Clive James
Cultural Amnesia, 2007

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