We cannot understand the phenomenon of remembering without invoking its opposite, forgetting. Taking his cue from Beckett – ‘only he who forgets remembers’ – Josipovici uncovers a profound cultural shift from societies that celebrated ritual remembrance at fixed times and places, to our own Western world where the lack of such mechanisms leads to a fear of forgetting, to what Nietzsche diagnosed as an unhealthy sleeplessness that infects every aspect of our culture.
Moving from the fear of Alzheimer’s to invocations of ‘Remember the Holocaust’ and ‘Remember Kosovo’ by unscrupulous demagogues, from the burial rituals of rural societies to the Berlin and Vienna Holocaust Memorials, from eighteenth-century disquiet about the role of tombs and inscriptions to the late poems of Wallace Stevens, Josipovici has produced, in characteristic style, a small book with a very big punch.
Gabriel Josipovici’s novel The Cemetery in Barnes (2018) was shortlisted for the 2018 Goldsmiths Prize and longlisted for the 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize.
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