“Every memory is a re-creation, not a playback” (Ignazio)

One of the discussions that we had in class this week was about memory in Asterios Polyp. Since a large portion of this book is flashbacks, it was worth mentioning how important memories are for this book. One of the sections in particular that we looked at was the sequence of Hana going through day-to-day activities (bathing, sneezing, laughing, getting sick, etc.).  There’re not necessarily the most defining, important, or happiest snapshots of their relationship, but they capture the side of Hana to which Asterios became accustomed—the essence of Hananess. Willy was right when he said, “All movement is arbitrary, it’s repetition that makes meaning,” because these moments of repetition and ritual characterize who a person really is, not the rare, outliers that occur from time to time.

In the same way, the flashbacks may not represent the story of Asterios Polyp in its entirety—did Willy’s show get cancelled, when did Asterios and Hana get divorced, did Asterios quit teaching, etc.—but it gives the audience the highlights and lowlights of what occurred. And because these flashbacks are more or less restricted to what Asterios (and Ignazio by proxy) knows, the full story cannot be fully known.

We brushed a little on Asterios’ video tapes, which can also represent memory. In a way, the documentation of events and one’s memory are similar. Both can be altered, destroyed, or decontextualized.  When Asterios watches his videos in the beginning of the book, the reader might think differently of them until their gain context. And when the fire burns his videos, several decades of memories go up in smoke. All memory is fallible.

One thought on “Memories”

  1. Very interesting take on the role of memories in Asterios Polyp. An intriguing thought occurred to me when you reminded us about Asterios’s videotapes burning. Instead of seeing this event as the loss of several decades of memories, I think we could flip it around and read it as liberatory. This is the first of a chain of events that leads to Asterios finally breaking free of his twin. And in some ways, it’s liberating for Ignazio as well. It’s after these tapes burn up that we first see his dotted outline, shadowing Asterios. It’s as if Ignazio had been contained in those tapes, where he acted as a dead memory—dead weight—to Asterios, and when the tapes burn, Ignazio escapes.

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