In Amélie Nothomb’s hilarious book “Stupeur et tremblements” (“Fear and Trembling”) the main character, a frail young Belgian woman, is ordered by her Japanese boss Saito-san to forget Japanese that she speaks fluently: “A partir de maintenant, vous ne parlez plus japonais”. (I realise he was speaking in Japanese but reading the lines in French, language of the story, made me imagine him actually saying them in French and made me laugh more than the same lines in the film, where the Japanese do speaks Japanese).
The young woman who was hired precisely for her knowledge of Japanese sees no logic in this neither understands how one can actually will herself into forgetting a language. (Apparently, the Japanese have mastered this useful skill!)
The character of Yevgeni Grishkovetz in “OdnovrEmEnno” (“At the same time”) believes we are better off remaining ignorant about some things. Once he learns this about his own body
there is no way back (unless amnesia strikes him) and apparently this is not something he would choose to know about himself.
I would not mind surpressing the haunting memories of the face expressions of women at the shoe sale I was lucky to survive.
Memories is one more thing to let go of, I guess. Maybe not necessarily to forget.
In Rupert Murray’s documentary Unknown White Male (2005) the 35-year-old Brittish guy wakes up on the New York subway with all memories gone. In the film we witness him meeting his past (his family, studies, the city, old friends in England “for the first time”) but instead of trying to identify his present self with the old one, that fits the discriptions of others, he lets his new self emerge and turns out quite different from the “old” Bruce. It seems he is given a second chance (but aren’t we given a new chance every new moment?) and although his pals want their “old” friend back he seems to be at peace with his new self.
Here one could argue that he is making up a new identity and will soon get stuck in the new self-image just as he did in the previous one, just as we do day after day making a collection of memories, a set of personal experiences into something solid that we identify our self with and will refer to when all we have to do is to refer to the self in each particular moment. (When my brother was a little boy and was offered some new for him food to try, before tasting it he would turn to my mum and ask: “Do I like it?”)
Here – forgetting in a foreign language. When it is all Dutch to you from the very start maybe it is not so difficult to allow oneself to forget:
Spinvis, Voor ik vergeet (the video from their official site)