Indestructible Pasts and Paranoid Presents: Jonathan Frazer against Active Forgetting in "Purity"
AuthorsGarrigós González, Cristina
IdentifiersPermanent link (URI): http://hdl.handle.net/10017/49222
REDEN: revista española de estudios norteamericanos, n.0 (2019), pp. 21-34, ISSN 2695-4168
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internacional
Remembering and forgetting are linked as inevitably as life and death. Sometimes, forgetting is motivated by a biological disorder or brain damage, or it may be the product of an unconscious desire deriving from a traumatic event (psychological repression). But in some cases, forgetting can be consciously motivated (thought suppression). It is through the conscious repression of memories that we can find self-preservation and move forward, although this may mean, as Nietzsche suggests in his essay “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life” (1997), that we create a fable of our lives. In Jonathan Franzen’s novel Purity (2015), forgetting is an active and conscious process; the characters choose to forget certain episodes of their lives so as to be able to construct new identities. Their erased memories include murder, economic privileges following from illegal or unethical commercial procedures, and dark sexual episodes. Their obsession with forgetting the past links the lives of the main characters, and it structures the narrative of the novel. The motivated erasure of memories thus becomes a means by which the characters are able to to survive and confront their present according to a (fake) narrative that they have constructed. But is motivated forgetting possible? Can one completely suppress facts in an active way? This paper analyses the role of forgetting in Franzen’s novel in relation to the need in our contemporary society to deny, hide, or erase uncomfortable data from our historical or personal archives; the need to make disappear stories which we do not want to accept, recognize, and much less make known to the public. This is related to how we manage information in the age of technology, to the “selection” of what is to be the official story, and to how we rewrite our own history.