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History and memory are inextricably connected, through representation, recording and perspective.
Deliberate exclusions and falsifications are the misrepresentation of recalling memory and the recording of history. Carl Becker, historian once said “History is the memory of things said and done.” as an example in defining history. Thus history and memory are inextricably connected through representation, recording and perspective.
A writer of any genre speaks for “the people who have heard and will hear this story, pass it down, connect it with other stories to make a collective representation” of a shared cultural narrative. The audience gains such knowledge through others and through the memory of others. But ‘memories are unreliable’, as they are multifaceted. A writer writing about the life or lives of another strives for historical accuracy, and the truthfulness of the subjects personal values and morals. The life writing genre invites according to Young-Bruehl an element of fantasy as it enriches the biographers capacity for empathy. So when the writer writes for “the people…” the history and memory is already tainted, simply for entertainment, to create an emotional connection that most individuals can identify with. In this act of recording the life of another, the biographer represents the person who lived this life, but not exclusively.
Writers on all forms of life writing, biography, memoir, autobiography, diaries, letters, testimonies, personal essays and digital platforms such as blogs and emails presenting the history of the individual along with their memories, acts like a historian. Richard J Evans ‘In Defence of History’ London, 1997 stated Ranke’s contribution to how history should be handled. History “has been assigned the office of judging the past, of instructing the present for the benefit of future ages.” And that anything containing history should be presented as ‘how it was’. Historians, argued Ranke, had to root out forgeries and falsifications from the record. They had to test documents on the basis of their internal consistency, sticking purely to ‘primary sources’, the ‘purest, most immediate documents’ and to avoid secondary sources’ such as memoirs or histories written after the event. This strict criterion would give the ‘truest’ representation and recording of historical events.
The author’s handling of history and the memories of the individuals they are writing of, align with historian Collingwood, that “History is the re-enactment in the historians mind of the thought whose history he is studying” and this applies with those writers in the life writing genre. A ‘re-enactment’ of thought who’s history they are studying. With this in mind, the writer and historian have to develop a detached mode of cognition, self criticism with the ability to understand another person’s point of view. Robert Evans American film producer stated “There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying.”
The biography, The Fiftieth Gate by Mark Raphael Baker acts as historian, son, and writer of his parents memory and history of the holocaust. “It was not the facts that were held under suspicion, but her credibility as a survivor. Unlike my father, my mother’s story was told by the lines on her arms, the years of her stolen childhood.” The balance for him to remain detached and understand another person’s point of view is difficult through the roles he assumes. History and memory are complementary as history validates memory, while memory adds depth and understanding to history. “This was the deal: I would give them my knowledge of history; they would give me their memory.” but again he struggled maintaining to be historiographer. “Don’t turn me into just another memory…”