THE MEMORY TRAP, published by 4th Estate in May, 2013, won the prestigious Melbourne Prize for Literature Best Writing Award in 2015. This prize is awarded to a single work – fiction, non-fiction, poetry or script – published in the previous three years.
In THE MEMORY TRAP the past feeds into the present and often undermines it in a story about marriage, memory and mistakes that can never be forgiven. It features Nina, a memorial consultant and her futurologist husband Daniel: her sister Zoe, a music teacher and Zoe’s biographer husband, American ex-alcoholic Elliot. And lastly, there is Ramsay Blake, a genius at the piano but a half-baked human being in every other respect.
I’ve long been fascinated by monuments, by the attempt to render concrete what is essentially abstract. And the iconic status of certain memorials: the Statue of Liberty, the Arc de Triomphe, Nelson’s Column, the Brandenburg Gate. And how certain buildings take on the qualities of monuments: the Vatican, the Palace at Versailles. And landscapes, too: the Somme, Gallipoli, Treblinka, Cambodia’s killing fields.
During the writing of THE MEMORY TRAP I visited many monuments in Europe and Russia, in America and Canada, in Australia and parts of Asia. I learned about the allegiances of monuments: how they are in service to the contemporary culture more than to the original event or person they are seeking to honour or remember.
As new monuments are built and others are brought to the ground, as some monuments become particularly popular while others are left to be pigeon perches I have come to regard them as powerfully expressive of changing political and cultural landscapes.
I drew on this research in the creation of my character Nina and her consultancy with TIF, the Together in Freedom group with whom she works during the course of the novel. Memory, whether personal or at the national level is fragile, memory is all too easily co-opted to support questionable means and purposes, memory is disturbingly unreliable and partisan, memory is pock-marked with faults, but without it we are nothing.