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On Commemoration

Global Reflections upon Remembering War

Edited By Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro

How, in the twenty-first century, can we do commemoration better? In particular, how can commemoration contribute to post-war reconciliation and reconstruction? In this book, a global roster of distinguished writers, artists, musicians, religious leaders, military veterans and scholars debate these questions and ponder the future of commemoration. They include the world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, the award-winning novelists Aminatta Forna and Rachel Seiffert, and the human rights lawyer and Gifford Baillie Prize-winner Philippe Sands. Polemics and reflections together with poetry and creative prose movingly illuminate a subject that speaks to our common humanity.

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Memoir and Memory (Aminatta Forna with Elleke Boehmer)


aminatta forna with elleke boehmer

Award-winning author Aminatta Forna talks to literary scholar and author Elleke Boehmer about memoir, witness literature and the challenging role of the artist in remembrance and commemoration in Sierra Leone and Croatia (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Aminatta Forna in conversation with Elleke Boehmer (© John Cairns).

elleke boehmer: Aminatta Forna was born near Glasgow; her mother was from Aberdeen, her father a medical student from Sierra Leone. In her memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water (2002), she gives an incredibly powerful, poignant, but also sometimes humorous ←25 | 26→account of her childhood and of being divided, geographically and emotionally, between Sierra Leone and Scotland. She also recounts her investigation into the circumstances that led to the execution of her father on trumped-up charges of treason in 1975. Since her memoir she has published four novels, Ancestor Stones (2006), The Memory of Love (2010), The Hired Man (2013) and Happiness (2018). This conversation will oscillate, syncopate, between short readings from and discussion about several of these books. I want to open the conversation by addressing the question of witnessing, which is crucial when we talk about writing addressing situations of conflict and war and their aftermaths. Can literary writing, memoir ever be adequate to the task of witnessing? What is the business of writing, witnessing and words?

aminatta forna: I teach a course called Witness Literature at Georgetown University and I consider myself a writer...

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