25 May: Things We Can’t Remember, Things We Can’t Forget - Maria Stepanova and Sasha Dugdale w/ Allan Little
In an era when everything from photographs to credit cards and notes can all be preserved and stored on our personal devices, what is the impact on our own brain’s ability to store memories? Maria Stepanova’s astounding meta-memoir is a panoramic, absorbing reflection on the nature of memory, filtered through the lens of her own family’s history as Jewish people living in Soviet Russia.
Moscow-based Stepanova is a poet, novelist and journalist who is renowned in Russia not only for her own writing but also for founding the widely-read online journal Colta.ru, which has brought independent commentary on the political, cultural and social reality of life in Russia to nearly a million viewers per month. Nevertheless, her new book has catapulted Stepanova into a new league, as a genuine literary star of the post-Soviet era - a name to be uttered in the same breath as Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexeievitch and Polish author Olga Tokarczuk.
Superbly translated by poet, playwright and translator Sasha Dugdale, In Memory of Memory begins with Stepanova sorting through the possessions of her beloved aunt after her death, and piecing together a picture of life in Soviet Russia. Dugdale’s translation allows the book to seamlessly expand to a meditation on the nature of memory that sets her in a literary constellation including WG Sebald, Proust and Susan Sontag. In the end, it’s a work that is as much about the need to remember as it is about the need to forget.
In today’s (surely unforgettable) session Stepanova and Dugdale are joined by BBC journalist and writer Allan Little.
Shortlisted for The 2021 International Booker Prize