astonishment that it touched on many of the issues I had been turning over in my mind in connection with both the public and the private aspects of memory and forgetting: how to lay the past to rest; what constitutes a person; whether it’s possible to know what one feels, and so on. And it seemed to be no accident that Hamlet was written and performed around 1600, just when in Europe the transition from medieval to modern was accelerating. Any discussion of memory and forgetting, I sensed, should be, must be, conducted with an awareness of changing cultural landscapes.
At the same time, I felt very strongly that all attempts at a historical or cultural exploration of memory and forgetting had to acknowledge the fact that each person’s mode of remembering and forgetting is subject to personal, generic, cultural and historical imperatives. Thus I decided to introduce interludes into the text at key junctures to jolt the reader into contemplating specific cases of the anguished interconnectedness of the need to forget and the fear of forgetting. I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this book. First my mother for helping me to understand the importance of both remembering and forgetting in life, and for providing the anecdote I have used as epigraph and the one which opens section eight. Sadly, she did not live to read either the lecture on the Holocaust and memory or the Hamlet book, on both of which I would have welcomed her views. Rosalind Belben, Steve Mitchelmore, Giglia Sprigge, Bernard Sharratt and Tamar Miller all read drafts of the book and made detailed and perceptive comments on it, some of which saved me from error or made me think again about how best to put my argument and some of which I chose to ignore, perhaps to the detriment of the finished work. To all,