With the death of her aunt, the narrator is left to sift through an apartment full of faded photographs, old postcards, letters, diaries, and heaps of souvenirs: a withered repository of an entire century of life in Russia. Carefully reassembled with calm, steady hands, these shards tell the story of an ordinary family that somehow managed to survive the myriad persecutions and repressions of the last century. The family’s pursuit of a quiet, civilized, ordinary life—during such atrocious times—is itself a strange odyssey.
In dialogue with thinkers like Roland Barthes, W. G. Sebald, Susan Sontag, and Osip Mandelstam, In Memory of Memory is imbued with rare intellectual curiosity and a wonderfully soft-spoken, poetic voice. Dipping into various genres—essay, fiction, memoir, travelogue, and history—Stepanova assembles a vast panorama of ideas and personalities and offers a bold exploration of cultural and personal memory.