In biography writing, textual sources and interviews is paramount, while memory is fairly unimportant.

For example, whenwork in progress I wrote the biography of immunologist and Nobel Prize winner Niels K. Jerne, the written sources provided the bulk of the empirical material. His own memories, reported in the interviews we did together during the last six years of his life, were less important and did not, with a few significant exceptions, have much impact on my reconstruction of his life and work.

Memoir writing is different. Most autobiographical authors draw heavily on their memories, of themselves and others, of events, places, etc. Even if the author builds the story entirely on documents in his or her personal archive, memories cannot be erased and always interfere, somehow, with the interpretation of the sources. However subjective and distorted, memories are the foundation of the autobiographical enterprise.

My autobiographical project is no exception. From the very beginning of this undertaking I have had a constant stream of unprovoked (spontaneous) and induced memories from all periods of my life.

And this has made me reflect further on the role of memory and memory reports in the construction of an autobiography.

On the following pages, I will discuss these experiences, with special emphasis on the role memory can play for the care of self and graceful ageing.

I should add that there exists a huge research literature on memory to draw on; fortunately that part which deals specifically with memory in autobiographical writing is much smaller and apparently more digestible.

 

(I have not organised the subpages on memory yet)