Who would you be without your memories?

The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’Farrell. This book was incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking. I only just finished it a couple of days ago. 


the man who forgot his wifeLots of husbands forget things: they forget that their wife had an important meeting that morning; they forget to pick up the dry cleaning; some of them even forget their wedding anniversary. But Vaughan has forgotten he even has a wife. Her name, her face, their history together, everything she has ever told him, everything he has said to her – it has all gone, mysteriously wiped in one catastrophic moment of memory loss. And now he has rediscovered her – only to find out that they are getting divorced. “The Man Who Forgot His Wife” is the funny, moving and poignant story of a man who has done just that. And who will try anything to turn back the clock and have one last chance to reclaim his life. (text taken from Amazon.com)

I bought this book on a whim in one of my trips to Cebu: found it in a second-hand bookshop and thought, “Why not?” Lucky for me, it’s turned out to be one of the best books I’ve read this year so far. I love how it entwines the big questions of life with a thread of lightheartedness that goes on from cover to cover. For this reason and lots more, the book was definitely unputdownable. 

Something to think about

I’d like to share one of the many sections that I consider rather interesting:

I had found myself pondering how much my brain-wipe altered my actual character. I suggested to Gary that this question raised all sorts of issues about the philosophical relationship between memory and experience. […]

“What I’m trying to say is, when I had completely forgotten all the events of my life, was I suddenly no longer shaped by them? Is it possible that my personality could have reverted back to my essential core nature, with the nurture starting all over again based on subsequent experiences? […]

“What I’m saying is: is it possible that all the character-defining experiences of my life were wiped along with the memories of them? I had a teenage cycling accident which I don’t remember. I still have the scar on my leg. But do I still have the mental scars of a failed marriage and all the other disappointments and unrealized ambitions, whatever they may have been?

“… I’m just saying, don’t you think this offers a unique case study in the whole ‘nature versus nurture’ debate? Surely we don’t have to remember something to be affected by it? None of us can recall every single thing that’s happened to us, yet all of it helps shape our personalities.”

Makes me wonder myself whether my present temperament – which is almost an extreme opposite of how I was ten years ago – is nothing but a result of the things that transpired within that decade. And if, by some catastrophe I suddenly forget they ever happened, will I be the same person?

…Will you?