Memory and Cultural Identity: Negotiating Modernity in Nadeem Aslam's "Maps for Lost Lovers."

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David Waterman

Abstract

In Les abus de la mémoire, Tzvetan Todorov makes the distinction between literal and exemplary memory, the first subordinating the present to the past, while the second – potentially liberating – allows the past to be exploited in the present, “de quitter le soi pour aller vers l’autre” (31-32).  While Todorov’s discussion is largely focussed on extreme forms of cultural trauma, the Pakistani family at the center of Maps for Lost Lovers (2004) suffers a similar loss, albeit on a smaller scale: their immigration to England and the murder of Chandra – living with, but not married to, Jugnu – by her brothers.   Cultural identity is always a function of social relations, of belonging to a certain group, a process from which individuals are “theoretically absent” (Terry Eagleton 88); this family’s struggle, living in a close-knit Pakistani community in England, is a microcosm of contemporary Pakistan in its fitful attempt to define itself, to answer the essential question: “To what end will we use collective memory?”  Retreat into community, integration, a negotiated, cross-cultural position between the traditional and the modern, something else entirely?   The discord between past and present, the competing myths of traditional and modern, ultimately destroys this family, highlighting the very real dangers when memory has not been put to good use, provoking a collision of cultural identities rather than an integration of diversity.   

Article Details

Section
Refereed Articles (Humanities)
Author Biography

David Waterman, Université de La Rochelle

David Waterman is Maître de conférences in English at the Université de La Rochelle, France, as well as a member of the research team CLIMAS (Cultures and Literatures of the English Speaking World) at the Université Michel de Montaigne, Bordeaux III, France.

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