Associative Memory

Sebald includes images to enhance his writing, and, interestingly, chooses photographs that do not directly relate to his narrative but to associative memories indirectly linked with the narrative. This is unexpected and initially, it seems as if Sebald has chosen to include photographs arbitrarily. However, the associative photographs speak to how memory often works. Sebald’s stories are set up as a memory of someone else recounting a memory. In the case of Max Ferber, Sebald writes about the memory of speaking to his friend about the memories of being introduced to the memories of his mother. There are a lot of layers of memory in this interaction. When we hear other people’s stories, we often relate to them by recalling our own stories or associating them with another one – especially when we are disconnected from a story. As people, we like to make comparisons. Sometimes our associative memories are more vivid than our direct memories.

As is visible from the doors framing the sides of this photograph, I took this photo as an outsider looking in. Though I was on the same bus trip as these women and girls, I was a stranger to them in several ways. Most obviously, these people are Albanian and I am not. I don’t share their language or their other cultural upbringings. These women worked together at what I understood to be a shoe factory. On their day off, they, with their children, had visited Dhermi, a small beach in Albania surrounded by mountains.


I took this photo of Dhermi on the winding, mountainous drive.

Hitchhiking through Albania, my friend and I encountered this group and they agreed to give us a ride. The women and girls in this photo are doing a traditional Albanian dance – one that I’d never seen before. The dance reminded me of traditional Polish dances that I am somewhat familiar with. I did not take a video of this dance, but I can picture it in my head. I wonder how much my memory of the Albanian dance is influenced by my exposure to Polish dance.

These dolls are dressed for a traditional Polish dance. There were several dolls just like these in my house growing up.


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