"Many of the great political crimes of recent history were committed in the name of memory."
October 15, 2012 4:50 AM   Subscribe

Telling Stories About The Stories We Tell, An Interview with Philip Gourevitch
But what really interests me ultimately is not to record the past, so much as how people live with the past and get on with it. There’s a kind of fetishization of memory in our culture. Some of it comes from the experience and the memorial culture of the Holocaust—the injunction to remember. And it also comes from the strange collision of Freud and human rights thinking—the belief that anything that is not exposed and addressed and dealt with is festering and going to come back to destroy you. This is obviously not true. Memory is not such a cure-all. On the contrary, many of the great political crimes of recent history were committed in large part in the name of memory. The difference between memory and grudge is not always clean. Memories can hold you back, they can be a terrible burden, even an illness. Yes, memory—hallowed memory—can be a kind of disease. That’s one of the reasons that in every culture we have memorial structures and memorial days, whether for personal grief or for collective historical traumas. Because you need to get on with life the rest of the time and not feel the past too badly. I’m not talking about letting memory go. The thing is to contain memory, and then, on those days, or in those places, you can turn on the tap and really touch and feel it. The idea is not oblivion or even denial of memory. It’s about not poisoning ourselves with memory."
Philip Gourevitch (previously) is the author of We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, which "chronicles what has happened in Rwanda and neighboring states since 1994, when the Rwandan government called on everyone in the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi minority. " He has been interviewed by, among others, The Browser, The Economist, and PBS's Frontline.
posted by the man of twists and turns (6 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for posting. I enjoy his writings, particularly his African journalism. He was one of the only long-form journalists to write about "Africa's World War", the Second Congo War.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:50 AM on October 15, 2012

For the love of all that is good could someone please see to it that this man is broadcast on television on a daily basis à la Rachel Maddow? Maybe then people would stop this noisy claptrap about Obama shirking some kind of holy duty by not rushing into Syria, guns a-blazin'.
posted by Mooseli at 7:27 AM on October 15, 2012

Great article, thank you. That was one of the best interviews I've seen in a long while.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:41 AM on October 15, 2012

This is a great post. Thanks.
posted by thack3r at 2:34 PM on October 15, 2012

This is so much better, I think, than the Tumblr Storyboard interview with Gourevitch's boss at the New Yorker, David Remnick. Different interview topics, of course, but there's just a much deeper level of reflection with Gourevitch here. Thanks for posting.
posted by nthorn at 5:14 PM on October 15, 2012

Philip Gourevitch Looks For the Truth
“I’m most drawn to stories that I don’t understand to begin with, where there’s a lot of interesting stuff being churned up,” said journalist and author Philip Gourevitch of his investigative writing.
Gourevitch’s most recent book (2008), Standard Operating Procedure (in paperback titled The Ballad of Abu Ghraib) was a collaboration with documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line and Academy Award-winning The Fog of War).
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:06 AM on October 27, 2012

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