Figures in Italian Migration Literature
Chapter 2 Memory
Paul Connerton, in his analysis of How Modernity Forgets, states that ‘The history of mass migration is part of the history of modern forgetting’, justifying this powerful claim in terms of the dissociation of national cul- tures from their home experiences and practices, and thus the progressive ‘forgetting of local roots’.1 I cite this claim not to refute it – in the terms of social anthropology, Connerton is presumably right – but rather to call attention to its counterweight, in the form of the acts of resistance to such forgetting which are visible at the level of individuals or of specific migrant collectives, and manifest themselves as acts of narrative memory. Indeed, Connerton himself goes on to recall V.S. Naipaul’s search, in 1950s London, for material with which to establish a career as a writer, and his late reali- zation that in the west London boarding house in which he stayed with a mix of economic and political migrants, he had arrayed before him all the subject matter he could wish for in the form of the stories those individu- als could tell: ‘the people he saw were full of their memories’, Connerton notes.2 This chapter will explore the ways in which migration literature in Italian negotiates, through telling in a number of ways, which include not telling, the desire to remember and also to forget. I will discuss experiences and operations of the mind which are encompassed under the broad head- ing of memory, but incorporate a range of interior movements...
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