It was after reading a poem by Edmund Blunden that I started to think much more about silence as a space in which to remember. In ‘1916 seen from 1921,’ we get a glimpse of what it was like for Blunden, for a survivor of the Great War, as he looks back at the horrors of the conflict and ahead towards the future.
“…Those ruined houses seared themselves in me,
Passionate I look for their dumb story still,
And the charred stub outspeaks the living tree…”
In my previous entry, ‘Night and Day’ I touched on emptiness as a means by which we (or a place) might best remember an event or events:
“It is better to form one’s memory loci in a deserted and solitary place, for crowds of passing people tend to weaken the impression…”
Emptiness equates of course with silence, and, particularly in the case of the war, and all proceeding wars, silence is the means by which we collectively remember those who lost their lives. It is only now, having visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and Ieper, that I see the two minutes silence as a metaphor for the holes left by those who died; holes made by the absence of sound, the absence of voices. It is not only our voices which are stopped as we remember, but rather those of the dead.