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.
Monumental Silences (Noreen Masud)
Literature scholar Noreen Masud argues that commemorative silences are too often exclusive and unrepresentative and advocates understanding the powerful interests behind them.
Commemorative monuments are a silent residue of something that happened. They solidify past event into present object. Monuments may celebrate victories as well as lament tragedies, but etymologically they incline to the latter; ‘monument’ suggests ‘to advise’ and ‘to mourn’. In this sense, monuments offer protest under a different light: an act of non-violent resistance. This happened: it must never happen again.
Monuments mutely send messages. The space they occupy is not the aural/verbal space of language, but physical space. A monument may bear carved words, but far more important is its bulk, that taking up of space (if it’s not big, it’s not ‘monumental’). It marks an absence, but it makes that absence so physically substantial that it blocks one’s way. The monument cannot be moved past, unnoticed.
Commemorative silence is a kind of monument. It cordons off a section of aural space and empties it out, creating an unsettling void amidst daily noise. What makes monumental silence distinct, however, is that one has to choose to be halted by it. For a silence to feel as though one cannot move past it, cannot speak over it, that silence must feel vast, a little unnerving. It needs to acquire its own pregnant solidity.
In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the possible solidity of a silence is both...
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