Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

Forgetfulness



Forgetfulness: A Novel
by Michael Mejia

Paperback
2005
Price: $15.95

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Forgetfulness is a novel in two parts. The first part is a fictional monograph on the life of the Austrian modernist composer Anton von Webern (1883-1945). The collage-work monograph unfolds in a Webernian sequence of events and silences combining quotes from Webern, his friends and associates, and various historical and literary figures with short scenes, monologues, dialogues, newspaper articles, and theater and film scripts. The result is a lyrical panorama of early twentieth century Vienna, the unsettled and unsettling Mitteleurope that gave birth to both the fascinatingly esoteric, influential, and dogmatic methods of the Second Viennese School and the inexplicable Fascist horror of the Austrian-born Adolf Hitler. Through intermingling nodes of history, science, biography, and music, Webern and Hitler are brought together both physically and thematically, illustrating a simultaneously progressive and regressive vision, the apotheosis and cataclysm of the Enlightenment project.


The second part of the book takes place in Vienna on May 1st, 1986, shortly before the election of Kurt Waldheim as President of the Austrian Republic and shortly after the Chernobyl disaster. The three simultaneous, intertwining monologues of an archivist, a retired opera singer, and the author of the monograph, revisit the themes and events of the first part, commenting on postwar conceptions, analyses, and revisions of the period during which Webern lived, while continuously haunted by the spectres of Waldheim and Chernobyl, the persistence of crimes that are immanent, unpaid for, or only dimly, disingenuously recalled.


 

"Forgetfulness is a real treasure and a necesary revelation." —Rickki Ducornet, in Rain Taxi


"This is a dramatically ingenious work. As a first work it is even more remarkable and creates a sharp anticipation of what is to follow from such an author. Strongly recommended." —The Compulsive Reader


"Forgetfulness is frightfully complex, but well worth the will to understand."—Creative Loafing


"Michael Mejia's beautiful book Forgetfulness, like the music of Webern, Berg, and Schoenberg it describes, is at once rhapsodic and brilliantly patterned; intoxicating and starkly lucid; avant-garde and deeply lyrical; cleverly calculated and fiercely loving. As in twelve-tone music, the innovations of this astonishing contrapuntal record of Viennese society seem to have been undertaken because there was no other way to feel the material as fully." —M. T. Anderson, Fiction editor, 3rd bed


"Like archeological discoveries that recast the present, Michael Mejia's astonishing novel Forgetfulness reconstructs what art does best. Imagine music—and fiction—as a portrait of how the world works, instead of as entertainment or any of its other uses, and you'll get an intimation of his achievement." —Steve Tomasula


 

Excerpt


The eye, acquiring cyclopean proportions when seen reversely through the magnifying glass before it, is not still. It makes no grand or deliberate transits in any particular direction but it appears to be trained on a single object or isolated region. Its incremental and seemingly random shifts, then, are most likely involuntary. These are so minute, in fact, that at any lesser level of observation than this, they should not be considered motion. Rather, it might be said that the eye quivers in spite of itself, with life and in spite of life, in spite of the same life force that has trained it on its narrow field, that has mandated that it hold still and focus for the purpose of close observation, scrutiny, single-minded study. The eye quivers in a way that resembles the visibly unstable state of a still pool of liquid, struggling to maintain its stillness.

The gray-blue iris, like a soft sea creature beneath the aquarian dome of the cornea, also moves, though with a more calculated exactitude than the greater ocular structure. It moves economically and without caprice, as does the geometer. The circle at the center of the iris, the dark void known as the pupil, appears to be moving, but, in fact, the inside edges of the iris' striated membrane are contracting and relaxing, varying the magnitude of light information allowed to stream through the eye's lens and into the posterior chamber, to disperse through and illumine the thick jelly of the vitreous body, to bombard the retina's millions of photoreceptors.

All of this happens now.

The photoreceptors of this eye are fully operational, capturing an unending stream of data, light information-fragments, particles of form and color, distance and size-assembling a model of the world (of the object of observation, the isolated region) and sending it on for processing, recording, and analysis. For appreciation.

It may be noted that the iris' subtle movements also seem to encompass a number of additional corrections of the pupil in response to movements of the magnifying glass itself, as the latter is not wholly immobilized.

A two-dimensional, peach-colored polygon of light appears on the wet surface to one side of the iris, on the outside curve of the red-veined white of the eye, or sclera. A faint double of this same figure glistens on the outside curve of the cornea. The polygon, like the pupil, is subjected to continuous, though less precise transformations, mutations, not solely because of the micromotions of the eye and magnifying glass-or rather of the hand presumed to be holding the magnifying glass-but most likely because of an unseen changeable object or set of objects partially obscuring the source of the light: the branch of a tree, a passing cloud, a gradually lifting fog.