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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lost times

Sometimes you see something in a documentary and it is so poignant, you wished you had written it in your dialogue as an author. I saw a couple of programmes when I returned to Ghana both on case histories of people with exceptional memories. They were so exceptional we watch flabbergasted at the thought of being able to do it ourselves. There was someone who can do a dozen Rubik cubes within a few minutes and even do three, blindfolded, having only seen the layouts first. There was another who could tell what day of the week it was for any given date and a further couple of individuals who could remember what they were actually doing on any day of their lives post six or seven years old. Memorising a pack of cards instantly, remembering and being able to draw architecture you have seen once or being able to play a complex tune after one hearing are all baffling to those of us who have memories that seem to to be disgorged as fast as they are taken in in and which require diligent techniques to fix them in our brains.

A problem for us is that, though memories are concertinaed in our brains and we cannot immediately retrieve them, when we write we have an unconscious conduit to them so out they pour. Many of them will be rehashed or partially remembered bits and pieces from other authors’ work. A bit of every author’s work must include unwitting plagiarism. If you are like the cases described above you probably could never write fiction as everything would be lifted from some page or other!

Anyway, back to the poignant line in the documentary. The young man who has a brilliant memory of every day of his life is sitting with his boyfriend. Both at university. His lover says to him sadly that this day, as they sit on a cut lawn sipping white wine and looking into each other’s eyes, will fade from his own memory but not that of his boyfriend who will be able to call it up at any instant.

Before seeing this I never really considered how relationships that have long histories also have innate difficulties since those long histories will not be recalled in the same way or to the same degree. For one the glass of history is half full and for the other it is half empty. The conflicts that ensue are the stuff of life and it is messy and awkward.


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