We live in a culture that prizes memory—how much we can store, the quality of what’s preserved, how we might better document and retain the moments of our life while fighting off the nightmare of losing all that we have experienced. But what if forgetfulness were seen not as something to fear—be it in the form of illness or simple absentmindedness—but rather as a blessing, a balm, a path to peace and rebirth?
A Primer for Forgetting is a remarkable experiment in scholarship, autobiography, and social criticism by the author of the classics The Gift and Trickster Makes This World. It forges a new vision of forgetfulness by assembling fragments of art and writing from the ancient world to the modern, weighing the potential boons forgetfulness might offer the present moment as a creative and political force. It also turns inward, using the author’s own life and memory as a canvas upon which to extol the virtues of a concept too long taken as an evil.
Drawing material from Hesiod to Jorge Luis Borges to Elizabeth Bishop to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, from myths and legends to very real and recent traumas both personal and historical, A Primer for Forgetting is a unique and remarkable synthesis that only Lewis Hyde could have produced.
"Poet-essayist Hyde celebrates forgetting as a force for creative potency, personal growth, and social justice, and in doing so reminds us of his talent for intellectual synthesis and his restless, contrarian spirit . . . in the way of Zen Buddhism, [A Primer for Forgetting] is an invitation to forget our very selves so that we might finally see the universe clearly. And alongside all of the bright-burning erudition, there is a very moving personal angle: his mother's progressive dementia and the prospect of his own."—Booklist (starred review)
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N O T E B O O K I
The Liquefaction of Time
Every act of memory is an act of forgetting.
The tree of memory set its roots in blood.
To secure an ideal, surround it with a...