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July 2009

Memory and Lies

Image: Jon Redmond, "Escape."

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.

from “Dreaming of Baghdad”
His life was short but rich, crammed with events. He was arrested at the age of seventeen, released five years later, and executed when he was twenty-four. At the foot of the mountains, the bushes burn…
Translated from Arabic
Introduction: The Tenses of Fidelity
The pieces collected here represent the many uses of memory in shaping and completing narratives. Some of these pieces are identified as memoirs and presented as truth; others blur the borders between…
from “My Father’s Books”
By Luan Starova
In those rare moments when, bent over his opened books, he considered his fate, seeking solutions to the Balkan history of his family, in those moments when he thought he was fully prepared to begin writing…
Translated from Macedonian by Christina Kramer
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
from “Mausolée”
By Rouja Lazarova
1On a freezing day in February 1964 Sacho the Violin was arrested, an elegant man in his fifties, a former cabaret violinist known and loved by what remains of Sofia’s bon-vivant community. Under…
Translated from French by Christine Schwartz Hartley
The Man in the Travel Trailer
By André Kaminski
“Impossible” must be eliminated from our vocabularies!—Napoleon BonaparteProfessor Pizier lives in a trailer. In order to be prepared, as he says. He’s set for his getaway. His bags…
Translated from German by Ingrid Lansford
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. That’s what my grandfather told me. And that’s what I grew up believing.…
Translated from Spanish by Ezra E. Fitz
The Silence of Abraham Bomba
Images of a hair salon. Opposing mirrors multiply these images, the chairs, the men waiting in back, the barbers busy, on their feet, great white aprons knotted around their customers' necks. Over…
Translated from French
from “Angel”
By Jáchym Topol
The WindowsButch blinked. But it wouldn’t go away. He could see it, the blood, like a red honeycomb, like a membrane, in his left eye. Then in his right. Before, the blood had poured from the sky,…
Translated from Czech by Alex Zucker
from “I Can’t Stand Still”: An Interview with Jáchym Topol
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…
Translated from Czech
Brooklyn Trilogy
For Paul & Enrique 1 In the early eighties, during his first trip to New York, the writer Enrique Vila-Matas waited at a bus stop on Fifth Avenue, near the Metropolitan Museum. He thought he would…
Translated from Spanish