Given that my walking around the same part of Oxford has over the last few weeks engrained the streets, buildings, objects and structures in my mind, I realised that I am some way towards creating a memory place – a place with which to explore those mnemonic arts practised by the Ancient Greeks. I have decided therefore to try and memorise a passage from a book. I will divide it up, and use relevant ‘objects’ to act as ‘triggers,’ placing them at various points along the route which I will then recall as I ‘walk’ in my mind.
The passage I will try and recall will be taken from the Polish writer, Bruno Schulz’s story, ‘The Street of Crocodiles’, which I have chosen in part because he was himself a victim of Nazi brutality, shot in the street by a Gestapo officer in 1942.
A part of the extract is as follows:
“But where the ground extended into a low-lying isthmus and dropped into the shadow of the back wall of a deserted soda factory, it became grimmer, overgrown and wild with neglect, untidy, fierce with thistles, bristling with nettles, covered with a rash of weeds, until, at the very end of the walls, in an open rectangular bay, it lost all moderation and became insane… It was there that I saw him first and for the only time in my life, at a noon hour crazy with heat. It was at a moment when time, demented and wild breaks away from the treadmill of events and like an escaping vagabond, runs shouting across the fields. Then the summer grows out of control, spreads at all points over space with a wild impetus, doubling and trebling itself into an unknown, lunatic dimension.”
Such a beautiful description of summer months calls to mind many summers which I myself have known, and, knowing how the author met his end makes the passage all the more poignant. This prose, although a fiction, is borne out of reality, an amalgam of memories which the author must’ve had of summers in the past, and as with the work I’m making with deckchairs, these memories call to mind happier times in the light of terrible adversity, contrasts which give us the chance, by filling in the gaps with our own memories, of ‘getting to know’ or at least understand a little better, individuals – such as Bruno Schulz – who suffered so terribly.