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Memory and Lies

July 2009

This month we’re presenting writing from, and about, memory. Some of these pieces are identified as memoirs and presented as truth; others blur the borders between fiction and fact, revising the past to make sense of the present. The subjectivity of memory and history, and how the telling shapes the tale, are all addressed here, as authors consider collective, personal, and literary history in producing their own true stories. See how Anna Enquist, Eduardo Halfon, André Kaminski, Eduardo Lago, Rouja Lazarova, Luan Starova, Jáchym Topol, Carles Torner, Tomá… Weiss, and Haifa Zangana determine where the truth lies.

Introduction: The Tenses of Fidelity
By Susan Harris
The pieces collected here represent the many uses of memory in shaping and completing narratives.
Brooklyn Trilogy
By Eduardo Lago
The truth, however, is somewhat different. What follows is an account of how things really happened.
Translated from Spanish by Ernesto Mestre-Reed
By Anna Enquist
AriaThe woman with the pencil leaned over the table to read a pocket score of the Goldberg Variations. The pencil was made of special black wood. It had a heavy silver cap that concealed a pencil sharpener.…
Translated from Dutch by Jeannette K. Ringold
The Silence of Abraham Bomba
By Carles Torner
He was selected to be part of the Sonderkommando when he arrived at Treblinka.
Translated from French by Edward Gauvin
The Polish Boxer
By Eduardo Halfon
69752. That it was his phone number. That it was tattooed there, on his left forearm, so he wouldn’t forget it.
Translated from Spanish by Ezra E. Fitz
From “I Can’t Stand Still”: An Interview with Jáchym Topol
By Tomáš Weiss
Weiss: What was your first time out of the country?Topol: My first time was in East Germany with my mom. She took my brother and me to the seaside there. That change—all of a sudden by the sea in the…
Translated from Czech by Alex Zucker
From “Angel”
By Jáchym Topol
Butch blinked. But it wouldn’t go away. He could see it, the blood, like a red honeycomb, like a membrane, in his left eye.
Translated from Czech by Alex Zucker
The Man in the Travel Trailer
By André Kaminski
He has ten canisters of gasoline and if need be, could escape to North Africa via Malaga and Algeciras without stopping at a pump.
Translated from German by Ingrid Lansford
From “Dreaming of Baghdad”
By Haifa Zangana
He was arrested at the age of seventeen, released five years later, and executed when he was twenty-four.
Translated from Arabic by the author
From “Mausolée”
By Rouja Lazarova
Under the crowd’s gray gaze, a dozen militiamen bluntly push him into a small van.
Translated from French by Christine Schwartz Hartley
From “My Father’s Books”
By Luan Starova
He himself was deeply convinced, and no one and nothing could dissuade him from his belief, that his library remained his ultimate fatherland.
Translated from Macedonian by Christina Kramer