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2 - Noakhali and After: History, Memory and Representations

Literature and history serve the same God and have a close interdependence on each other in that they both ‘narrate’ events. The empiricist and the constructionist theories of history have come under challenge and there is now an increased recognition that history's invented, discursive narratives have a close relationship with the figurative codes of literature as both depend on language and narrative forms. Both are, in particular ways, creations of the human imagination, although with differing objectives. Nowhere is this closeness revealed more than in the historically embedded women's autobiographical mode of writing where the author is both a narrator and a witness to her times. A memoir or an autobiography then becomes a valuable form of historical testimony especially as it intertwines personal experiences with political and cultural contexts and underlines the autonomous struggles by women for themselves and for others. Although an autobiography depicts a world of interiority, it is also a self-reflexive appraisal of the past and a testimonial to the subject's self-fashioning. In many cases, an autobiographical narration centred within a historical ‘event’ can come into play with certain aspects of memory to configure such an event as a ‘myth’ just as it may see its own relationship to that event as creating, in turn, the self. A myth, independent of space and time, can carry traces of the teleological crack between event and meaning and allow one to interpret certain facets of the past not as a search for authenticity but as a way to read it in a more complex way.

Sengupta, Debjani
Cambridge University Press