Category Archives: Memory of Love
In Memory of Love, I believe that there is a connection between memories, hope, and change. A passage that stuck out to me was during the moment when Saffia mentions that Julius wanted her to finish her studies and that is why they did not have a child, and Elias says that she is still young: “One word. Yet so much more. She had said yes. Agreed her life was not over. I looked at her. I was consumed by a feeling of inexpressible joy. Only later did I recognize it for what it was. Hope. For in that instant the beauty and pain of the past, the unbearable present and the possible future all ran together” (269). That last line about the past, present, and future makes me think about how one’s being is filled with these past events that cannot be changed, and those events all add up and lead to the present moment. The words spoken or actions taken in the present determines the future. And the present moment becomes the past in the blink of an eye and the future is now here.
It sounds confusing, but when you think about it, the past, present, and future are indeed running together. They create this collective story, they are what bring about change, and change relies upon one’s memory and a feeling of hope. I do not believe that one must entirely forget the past in order to move on. I think that if one carries hope with him or herself then he or she will realize that there was this one good or evil that has happened and now it has supposedly ended so a new beginning must take place.
I believe this idea speaks to Elias Cole’s character because of his need to record the details of his life. To me, he not only is afraid of losing his memory, but he also just seems to want to hold on to every instant of his life and that prevents him from truly living it. That sounds incredibly cliché, but I think we all agree that Elias Cole just gets in the way of himself being the creeper he is. And while in the passage I have pointed out, he seems to have hope, he is still holding on to the past. In order for a change to truly happen, one cannot cling to the past and carry hope. Another character that I believe these ideas speak to even more is Kai Mansaray. I remember the scene when Lansana gives Kai a ride on the day of the coup, and Kai observes that Lansana’s eyes were flat, almost without expression and it was due to the absence of hope. I think Kai had an absence of hope himself in Memory of Love because he was so entangled in his memories, in how everything used to be, that he did not allow himself to believe in any sort of change for a while. He sort of became lost in his job just to distract himself from his memories that hope for anything became lost as well.
Poda poda is a private mini bus which serves as one of the main form of transportation in Sierra Leone. Allover Sub Saharan Africa, mini buses have different names such as Matatu in Kenya, Danfor in Nigeria, Tro-tro in Ghana and poda poda in Sierra Leone. We can see that poda poda is a very popular and common form of transportation for people in Sierra Leone as the writer mentions poda poda several times throughout the story. For example, Kai and Abass have a conversation about how poda poda got crashed on the road and Abduli says he got money from Mr. Salia for poda poda(275). Poda poda is also a place where Naasu told her story about living in camps after the civil war (311). Physically, people are mingled together in poda poda but mentally, poda poda is a comfortable and familiar environrment for Sierra Leonese to meet people and to share stories with one another.
Poda poda is significant in two ways. First, poda poda provides a form of transportation. Some people might dismiss its importance however, poda poda is very significant in the life of Sierra Leone when government cannot provide public transportation system, and people rely on poda poda to continue with their daily lives. Poda poda is not a public transportation but yet it acts like one because many countries either do not have a public transportation or it only runs for limited amount of time in limited areas. Especially when the country is having a civil war or is broke so she cannot afford to manage public services, poda poda, as a privatebusiness, fill in that space for the absence of transportation system, and enable people to move around.
One of the popular stop for poda poda is Campbell Street in the centre of Freetown where vehicles passes by one another with different messages on them. And this is why poda poda is significant in Sierra Leone. Poda poda serves as an icon of cultural in Sierra Leone. Outside of poda poda, drivers put religious statements like “God is great”, “Allah is great”. One poda poda driver, Alieu Sesay said “I believe in Allah and he will protect me and my poda poda. I will make good business.” When Susan Cole was asked a question if a message on poda poda influence her decision to go inside the vehicle she said “I notice the message but I would not choose to go inside the car, if I didn’t agree with the message. I am Christian and I just got out of that taxi that says ‘Allah is great’. It doesn’t make a difference to me. There is only one God and we are all Sierra Leoneans.” The atmosphere where people freely express their religious belief in a country with two distinctively different main religions, Muslim and Christianity, suggests that Sierra Leone have religious tolerance. Not all commentaries on Poda podas are religious. There are social saying like “Fear judgment day” and “Respect the Police” in front of the bus which reflects driver’s personal believing. Poda poda also mirrors the popular culture in Sierra Leone. Some drivers play their traditional music and others play American or British song in their car. This suggests that Sierra Leone is also affected by globalization and have brought in western culture. Poda poda creates a space where people can exchange their lives, information on pop cultures and opinions. It is a source of very much down to earth information of Sierra Leone’s culture.
In the book, The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna, the speaker uses poda poda to describe the scene of Sierra Leonese’s everyday life. Even though she did not explicitly describe the importance to poda poda, by bring in poda poda into the picture shows how poda podas are deeply embedded in the life of Sierra Leones.
“And when he wakes from dreaming of her, is it not the same for him? The hollowness in his chest, the tense yearning, the loneliness he braces against every morning until he can immerse himself in work and forget. Not love. Something else, something with a power that endures. Not love, but the memory of love” (Chapter 21, last paragraph).
I love the language Aminatta Forna uses in this passage, to capture the essence of her novel’s title. To begin with, the speaker of this passage is Kai, an unlikely suspect for a deep introspection about love. All we know of Kai at this point is that he is a passionate workaholic, who has endured a traumatic war. It would have made more sense for Adrian, with the failing marriage, or Elias Cole, with his in-depth memoir, to make these comments, but Forna chooses Kai.
This distinction makes me wonder–was he really talking about Nenebah? While his love for Nenebah is obvious from the memories that are revealed to us overtime, I believe this “memory of love” could just as well have been directed towards his country, Sierra Leone.
In the chapter leading up to this dramatic paragraph, Kai goes back and forth between describing his time with Nenebah, and the political play-by-play of Sierra Leone: “The army was divided, he told Nenebah. If the army was divided it was dangerous for everyone” (Chapter 21). Not only so, but Kai spends any minute he’s not sleeping or with Nenebah at the hospital, the only time when “Kai was happy.” Kai is literally trying to put his country back together, one surgery at a time.
This is why I think Adrian and Kai’s friendship is so symbolic. As foreign aid workers flood into the country to help rebuild, Kai is constantly flashing back to the memories he has of his country before the war. His memories of the University, of his family gatherings, the trips to the countryside, all illustrate, to the readers, what life was like before the war. But Kai knows his country will never be able to go back to the way they once were, not with all of the wounds that he is helping to literally patch up. His temptation to move to America underlines this transition, that while he still may love the people close to him, his love for his country has, with the war, ended, leaving just the memory of love.