“Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: it gives back life to those who no longer exist” – Guy de Maupassant
Memory – it’s something we all have, and sometimes take for granted. Some are big, grand recollections of big events that impact our lives. Some are small; jobs we need to do, where we put things. They are good, they are bad. Some make us laugh, others, cry. But we all have a memory, a place where experiences and events in our lives are put away ready to be retrieved when we like. Sadly, some of us have them taken from us in the cruelest of circumstances. First it comes on as a little bit of forgetfulness, but over time degeneration sets in and it becomes difficult to remember your closest family and friends. That is what happens with Alzheimer’s Disease.
It was this that afflicted the author Sir Terry Pratchett. He wasn’t afraid of it, just angry. He campaigned tirelessly after his diagnosis to raise money and awareness of a condition that even now, has no known cure. But it does seem that we are getting closer. And that’s where my latest read comes in. A group of fans have come together to create an anthology of short stories on the theme of memory, as a lasting tribute to Terry Pratchett. And possibly even more importantly, it will help raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
So, on to the book: In Memory: A Tribute To Sir Terry Pratchett. This anthology contains seventeen short stories in a range of genres and styles, all in their own individual way linking back to the topic of memory.
What struck me, reading through each story, is what memory means to us as humans. And more than that, the myriad things it means to us all. In one story, the idea of preserving our memories to be revisited is touched upon as a core theme. Imagine being able to save all of those important moments in our lives, ready to be watched over and over. As a fan of photography, I find my photos do this for me. But a photo is just one snapshot of a moment, where this story puts forward the idea that, no matter what it is, we can choose to “record” memories and review them time and again.
In another, a bard finds himself writing a song about a battle. He tweaks it here and there to suite his ideas. He likes the idea of threes, so if anything happened involving any other number, it was still written as three. As the song evolves, other knights influence changes over the song to better glorify their involvements. In much the same way, we do this to memories. We subconsciously tweak them to suite our emotional feeling towards things.
Sometimes we choose to forget. One of my favourite stories followed a beastly creature, who doesn’t want to be evil. He embarks on a journey, in which he slowly rediscovers himself, though not always for the better. He learns of his wicked past, vowing to not be that person again. There are many people in the world who would choose to forget things they have done, but sometimes you need those memories to prevent them happening again.
This is just a small snapshot of bits that I remember from this wonderful anthology of stories. Everyone of them has been lovingly written in homage to Sir Terry Pratchett, and in my view, they all point to the same idea. Good or bad, memories are what make us who we are. We strive to replicate the feelings we experience in the good memories, strive to learn from and avoid the bad ones, but each leaving its own impression on our personalities. But if you take memory away from us, what is left behind? It’s definitely a sobering thought.