Remembering how to forget
By Steve Komarnyckyj, Mar 3 2014 11:14AM
I had a kaleidoscope when I was a kid and spent hours shaking the tube and watching the mirrors and coloured fragments form new patterns. The image occurred to me as I worked on Kalyna Language Press's latest project, a text that throws aside any conception of a linear narrative. The novel I am translating, "Episodic Memory" by Lyubov Holota, uses Tulving's theory of memory as a conceit for how our society and our memory is changing. Tulving breaks memory down into episodic and process memories. Episodic Memory is our memory of events, process memory is what allows us to tie a flawless double loop with our shoelaces. The book looks at the disintegration of Ukrainian rural society, at the thread of stories linking generations snapping. The structure is as dynamic and fluid as a perpetually shaking Kaleidoscope with fragments of memory splintering into the present. However, it is also about Ukraine's Soviet past, the generation that relocated to the cities and lost who they were. The author is remembering in an attempt to forget, to excise a part of the national narrative when the country was under occupation. It presents a formidable challenge, because its deliberate violation of linear narrative, which conveys its meaning in the fabric of the text, is difficult to render in English. I will write more on this theme in subsequent entries but it raises the question of how to balance fidelity to the source and to the traditions of the language we translate into.