Memories of the Future

by Siri Hustvedt

Hardcover, 2019

Call number



Simon & Schuster (2019), 336 pages


"From international bestseller and Booker Prize-nominee Siri Hustvedt comes a provocative novel about time, desire, memory and the imagination, Then tells the indelible story of a young Midwestern woman's fixation with her mysterious neighbor over the course of a threadbare year in 1970s New York" --

Media reviews

Memories of the Future is a portrait of the artist, certainly, and of New York in the 1970s, which Hustvedt joyously depicts as hot, dirty and cacophonous. But it’s also far more than that. As layered as a millefeuille, as dense and knotted as tapestry, it feels, by the time you reach the final pages, less like a novel and more like an intellectual reckoning; an act of investigation into how, as a woman, it is possible to live well in the world, and enter effectively into the conversation about it.

User reviews

LibraryThing member thorold
The comic, erotic, distressing, or character-building experiences of the gauche young intellectual, alone in the big city for the first time, pretending unsuccessfully not to be a self-portrait - we've all read dozens of first novels like that. But it's unusual to come across it as the theme for a mature novel by an experienced writer. Hustvedt's hook for this book, which follows her narrator "S.H." through a year out between college and postgraduate work in 1978-79, is the narrator's rediscovery of a forgotten diary from forty years ago as she's clearing out some of her mother's stuff. The book turns into a kind of conversation, moderated by the analytical "old woman" S.H. of the present day, between her remaining memories of that time, her experiences as she recorded them in the diary, and the way she reworked them fictionally in a couple of (unfinished) novels she was trying to write.

So there's a lot about the nature of memory, the way we unknowingly discard large amounts of information and retrospectively rewrite other experiences to suit the patterns we expect to find, and the way incidents move up and down in the scale of importance in unpredictable ways. It soon becomes clear that neither the diary nor the narrator's memory is entirely trustworthy, but as well as upsetting our preconceptions about whether it's possible to construct an authoritative version of past events, Hustvedt also has a lot of fun playing with our assumptions about how much her fictional S.H. (decoded for us variously as "Standard Hero", "Sherlock Holmes", etc.) can be identified with the author, throwing in a baffling mixture of real and fictional biographical details cunningly designed to prevent us from settling on either side of the fence.

Thrown into the mixture is the narrator's encounter with the papers of the then-forgotten dadaist, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927; she's now become famous as the probable real author of the celebrated conceptual artwork Fountain previously claimed by Marcel Duchamp). The bad Baroness's ribald anger gives S.H. a kind of virtual outlet for her frustration at the dismissive way she herself is often treated by a world that doesn't really expect blonde young women to have an opinion about Wittgenstein.

And of course this is also a very engaging novel about what it's like to be a young woman setting out with high expectations into the exciting world of New York in 1978. Making friends, partying, running out of money, going hungry, getting into trouble and out of it, making up stories about strangers and then discovering that the truth is both stranger than you imagined and more banal, deciding whether to put up with casual sexism or fight back against it, and all the rest of the weird world of being 23.
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1982102837 / 9781982102838
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