From this renowned philosopher comes a debut work of fiction, at once a brilliant précis of the history of philosophy, a semiautobiographical meditation on the absurd relationship between knowledge and memory, and a very funny story
A French philosopher dies during a savage summer heat wave. Boxes carrying his unpublished papers mysteriously appear in Simon Critchley’s office. Rooting through them, Critchley discovers a brilliant text on the ancient art of memory and a cache of astrological charts predicting the deaths of various philosophers. Among them is a chart for Critchley himself, laying out in great detail the course of his life and eventual demise. While waiting for his friend’s prediction to come through, Critchley receives the missing, final box, which contains a maquette of Giulio Camillo’s sixteenth-century Venetian memory theater, a space supposed to contain the sum of all knowledge. With nothing left to hope for, Critchley devotes himself to one final project before his death—the building of a structure to house his collective memories and document the remnants of his entire life.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The was more an homage than a novel. Interesting quick read, like philosophy fan fiction. I did not know what to expect but expected more.
Memory Theatre is a metaphysical thriller--somewhat in the tradition of Auster's New York City Trilogy, Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland etc. People who love metafictional thrillers usually REALLY love them, and I would be included in this group. A basic grasp of continentally inflected metaphysics (AKA 'critical theory': Hegel, Heidigger etc.) will help you to fall in love with this book but I don't think a grounding in that theoretical terrain is necessarily a pre-requisite.
Interestingly and significantly this particular metaphysical thriller is also an intimate piece of 'autobiographical fiction'--most of the people and relationships mentioned in the book are real people, many of the life-events and situations are fictionalized versions of real events and situations germane to the actual lived experience of the author, Simon Critchley etc. Like the recent, quite different but equally fascinating, 'kinetic', 'frenetic', and psychoanalytic investigation of Hamlet...
[SPOILER ALERT: This is a book about ideas, not plot. In order to discuss it, however, I felt I had to mention the simple story line on which the ideas are hung. If you would rather not know it, don't read on.]
Simon Critchley is a British philosopher now living in New York, where he teaches at the New School and writes a philosophy column for the Times. He has written numerous non-fiction books on topics from Martin Heidegger to David Bowie. This is his first work of fiction. If fiction it can be called, for much of it is a lightning history of the philosophy of memory, and in particular the idea of building a mnemonic device -- a memory theater -- which will cue the recall of its builder's entire knowledge. Before he leaves the University of Essex to go to America, Critchley is sent a number of boxes left behind by his late mentor, the French philosopher Michel Haar. [Like all the other figures in the book, including the protagonist, Haar was a real person. Critchley's...
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