Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fixed Stars Need Not Govern a Life.

By Alison Light: Mrs. Woolf and the Servants.

"Virginia Woolf loved to read biography, memoir and autobiography and she set a high value on all forms of life-writing, genres which in her day were considered poor relations in the literary family. Like Freud, however, who was far more hostile to both biography and autobiography, Woolf saw memory as 'selective amnesia', thinking that what we forget is probably as important as what we remember—if not more. The past was only ever sketchy, memory leapt and jolted, confused and sometimes invented; it changed its mind, depending on the 'platform of time' from which it was viewed. Approaching old age she gave a new, more ambivalent account of her parents, allowing for change in her views of them: 'As a child condemning; as a woman of 58 understanding—I shd say tolerating.' Crucially she asked herself, 'Both views true?' Her memoirs resist determinism and romance, including the romance of trauma, as if that were the only significant way in which modern individuals know themselves to be special and real. If life is shaped by the events of childhood, her memoirs imply, it is not railroaded by them. Fixed stars need not govern a life."

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