The Unresolved Story
Throughout our discussion of The Memory of Love, we have come across a myriad of themes relating to memory, hope, and silence. However, a theme that we have not explicitly discussed and is somewhat tied into the other themes is the notion of the unresolved. Despite all of the melodrama and all of the neatly tied ends, there were some stories that seemed to have no concise ending. In particular, I was left with numerous questions in regards to Elias and his daughter Nenebah, and how their relationship ended without redemption.
From the moment we realize Elias’ impending death and the proximity of his only child, the reader immediately begins to wonder what transpired between the two that prevents Nenebah from visiting her father even on his deathbed. Even beyond this, Nenebah does not tell her father of her pregnancy, dies in childbirth before she can even contemplate repairing the relationship, and the reader is left to assume that Elias never even gets to meet his only grandchild. Instead, we see Nenebah carry out her shortened life without her father without regret, and Elias is left to cope with his loneliness. As Nenebah astutely poses,
“Who was it who said ‘History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it?’…[Elias is] using you to write his own version of history…You’re just a mirror he can hold up to reflect a version of himself and events…Whatever you say, you will go away from here, you will publish your papers and give talks, and every time you do you will make their version of events the more real, until it becomes indelible.”
Elias, down to his last resorts, seeks affirmation by having Adrian listen to his version of his story, his ego expertly circumventing the gold nuggets of truth and self-realization. In a way, Elias denies himself his own resolved story, despite the fact that he narrated nearly the entirety of the novel. It is through this lack of resolve that Forna is encasing her perception of war and struggle; that to move on means to confront the truth, to find peace is to challenge evil, even if it has already passed. It is this notion that Adrian is confronted with in Elias’ story and numerous others affected by the war and the times: “The silent lie”.