So I’ve Been Told

I feel compelled to add or so I’ve been told.  In Turkish we have a special tense that allows us to distinguish hearsay from what we’ve seen with our own eyes; when we are relating dreams, fairy tales, or past events we could not have witnessed, we use this tense.  It is a useful distinction to make as we “remember” our earliest life experiences, our cradles, our baby carriages, our first steps, all as reported by our parents, stories to which we listen with the same rapt attention we might pay some brilliant tale of some other person.  It’s a sensation as sweet as seeing ourselves in our dreams, but we pay a heavy price for it.  Once imprinted in our minds, other people’s reports of what we’ve done end up mattering more than what we ourselves remember.  And just as we learn about our lives from others, so too do we let others shape our understanding of the city in which we live.

–Orhan Pamuk
Istanbul (2006, p. 8 )
read 6-28-08

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Filed under Literature, memory, Orhan Pamuk

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