A Paragraph About Memory

There was a review in the New York Times this weekend of the third volume of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume, autobiographical novel My Struggle. I especially liked this paragraph from the reviewer Rivka Galchen:

In and out of the book, Knausgaard repeatedly claims to have a weak memory, a claim one might argue the book belies, but I believe him. Knausgaard forgets most everything (which is very different from everything) the way we all forget most everything, and he might forget even a little bit more than the rest of us. His grandfather tells him a story about having once joined a rescue mission for a plane that crashed in nearby mountains. No one survived, the grandfather says, but he remembers seeing the captain’s head: “His hair was perfect! Combed back. Not a strand out of place.” It’s a kind of gruesome metonymy for memory itself: So much life gone, and this one head in the snow is what remains in the mind’s eye. The past returns to us like light almost entirely obscured by a heavy, dark screen in which memory has made a few pinholes; we see very little, really, yet we look upon it as if at the starry vault of the heavens.

But why are bad memories often more powerful than good ones? I wonder if Knausgaard has anything to say about that.

(Thanks to linuxgal of Terminal Cruise for motivating me to remember reading the paragraph about memory. According to Professor Rosenberg, of course, it was just a matter of electricity flowing in and out (see previous post).)