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Memory and Cultural Identity: Negotiating Modernity in Nadeem Aslam's "Maps for Lost Lovers."

Author(s): David Waterman

Journal: Pakistaniaat : A Journal of Pakistan Studies
ISSN 1948-6529

Volume: 2;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 18;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Fiction | Pakistan | Urdu

In Les abus de la mémoire, Tzvetan Todorov makes the distinction between literal and exemplary memory, the first subordinating the present to the past, while the second – potentially liberating – allows the past to be exploited in the present, “de quitter le soi pour aller vers l’autre” (31-32). While Todorov’s discussion is largely focussed on extreme forms of cultural trauma, the Pakistani family at the center of Maps for Lost Lovers (2004) suffers a similar loss, albeit on a smaller scale: their immigration to England and the murder of Chandra – living with, but not married to, Jugnu – by her brothers. Cultural identity is always a function of social relations, of belonging to a certain group, a process from which individuals are “theoretically absent” (Terry Eagleton 88); this family’s struggle, living in a close-knit Pakistani community in England, is a microcosm of contemporary Pakistan in its fitful attempt to define itself, to answer the essential question: “To what end will we use collective memory?” Retreat into community, integration, a negotiated, cross-cultural position between the traditional and the modern, something else entirely? The discord between past and present, the competing myths of traditional and modern, ultimately destroys this family, highlighting the very real dangers when memory has not been put to good use, provoking a collision of cultural identities rather than an integration of diversity.
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