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Excerpt from Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Memories of the Future

by Siri Hustvedt

Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt X
Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2019, 336 pages

    Mar 2020, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Print Excerpt

I remember the door closing on Mr. Rosales, and I remember my jubilation. I remember the two rooms of the old apartment, and I can walk from one to the other in my mind. I can still see the space, but if I am honest, I cannot describe the precise configurations of the cracks in the bedroom ceiling, the lumpy lines and delicate flowerings I know were there because I studied them, nor am I absolutely certain about the dimensions of the refrigerator, for example, which I believe to have been smallish. I'm quite sure it was white and it may have been round at its corners, not square. The more I focus on remembering, the more details I am likely to provide, but those particulars may well be invented. And so, I will not expound on the appearance, for example, of the potatoes that lay on the plates in front of me thirty-eight years ago. I will not tell you whether they were pale and boiled or sautéed lightly or au gratin or fried because I do not remember them. If you are one of those readers who relishes memoirs filled with impossibly specific memories, I have this to say: those authors who claim perfect recall of their hash browns decades later are not to be trusted.

And so, I arrive in the city I have dreamed about since I was eight years old but do not know from Adam (as a child, I thought the expression was "from atom" and that it bore some relation to the terrifying physics of the bomb).

And so, I arrive in the city I have seen in films and have read about in books, which is New York City but also other cities, Paris and London and St. Petersburg, the city of the hero's fortunes and misfortunes, a real city that is also an imaginary city.

I remember the eerie illumination that came through the broken blinds the first night I slept in apartment 2B on August 25. I told myself I needed a new shade or it would never be truly dark in the room. The hot air didn't move. My sweat turned the sheets damp, and my dreams were harsh and vivid, but by the time I had made coffee and taken the cup back to my foam mattress to drink it the following morning, I had forgotten what I dreamt. During my first week in New York, I wrote in the mornings and traveled on the subway in the afternoons. I had no destination in mind, but I know that as the train rumbled through the bowels of the city, my heart beat more quickly, and my newfound freedom seemed nearly impossible. A token cost fifty cents, and as long as I didn't take an exit and climb the stairs, I could change from one train to another without paying another fare. I chugged uptown and downtown on the IRT, and flew express on the A, and I crossed from the West Side to the East on the Shuttle and investigated the curious route of the L, and when the F rose up into daylight at Smith and Ninth Street and I had a sudden view of steaming Brooklyn with its jazz of jutting cement blocks, warehouses, and billboards, I found myself smiling out the window. As I sat or stood in one of the cars, jostled and jolted by its stops and starts, I paid homage to the ubiquitous graffiti, not for its beauty but for its insurrectionist spirit, one I hoped to imbibe and emulate for my own artistic purposes. I rejoiced in the screeching trains and in the voice of the man whose announcements turned to an unintelligible but sonorous scratch over the loudspeaker. I celebrated the press of the crowd as I was pushed out the door in a collective swell of movement, and I recited Whitman's lines "myself disintegrated, every one disintegrated, yet part of the scheme." I wanted to be part of the scheme. I wanted to be everyone. I listened to all the languages spoken, some of them recognizable—Spanish, Mandarin, German, Russian, Polish, French, Portuguese—and some that I had never heard before. I reveled in the varieties of skin color near me, having been sated in Webster, Minnesota, by enough Lutheran pallor and its inflamed shades of pink to red to burnt farmer brown to last me a lifetime.

Excerpted from Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt. Copyright © 2019 by Siri Hustvedt. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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