The Memory Artist

Thoughts about The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon

A glorious book about writing and memory and the Soviet Union and glasnost and Russia…

A period that I almost didn’t want to think about because of my own activist background… as if somehow I had personally been betrayed by Stalin and the Soviet Union.

The Memory Artist is a gentle, beautifully written novel that carries the reader along, not allowing the reader to fall into the depths of despair despite murders, disappearances and suicides.

Some quotes:

“There’s a moment, I’m not sure how long, one of those never-ending seconds, and whichever hour it is or whatever station I’m in, the words and numbers have no meaning. Then I think of somewhere I’m supposed to be or the next thing I have to do. I cling to those things, and I find myself again. ” p. 213

“I can attest that I’m here, as a man, with a body right now sitting on this seat, but I cannot say I am sure what I’m made up of – what is going on inside. ” p. 222

“Our inner life, consciousness or whatever, made the apartment a place where that manipulated and censored world couldn’t get in.” p. 223

“Looking at those malformed statues, I told myself that if I could make some kind of shape out of the memories of the men and women of my life – then somehow, impossibly, the broken past could be given form. Not put back together so much as refashioned into a kind of warped, fragmented sculpture. But nonetheless it would be something that I could hold, at least in my mind.” p. 243


Author: Pamela Collett

I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. I have a B.A. from Stanford University and a M.Sc. from Cornell University. I have lived and worked in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, California as well as in Washington, DC. Outside the United States, I lived and worked in Venezuela, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Uganda, Somalia and Kenya. I currently live in Canberra, Australia. I edited three books: Bold Plum: with the Guerillas in China's War against Japan by Hsiao Li Lindsay; Peace and Milk: Scenes of Northern Somalia by James Lindsay and Fatima Jibrell; and Solo vale si piensas rápido by Mehedy Lopez, a book of poetry in Spanish. In 2016, I published a book of my poetry and drawings, Silence Spoken. I have taught communication skills, English as a second language, and English for journalists (in Beijing, China) at university and secondary school levels. I was a features writer for the Daily Journal, (Caracas, Venezuela), and The Chronicle of Higher Education. I am a member of the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Writers Centre, active in a writers’ group and a contributor to poetry readings, That Poetry Thing, in Canberra, Australia.

One thought on “The Memory Artist”

  1. The last quote grabbed me. I never had considered how the people in my life somehow could form a piece of art. Maybe it’s a sculpture. Or maybe a painting. Or maybe a textile. Regardless, they come together to create something that I can hold onto, at least in my memory.


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