March 19, 2011

Associative memory and coincidences

The main thesis here is that associative recollections are fired up by coincidences.

My friend S called me last night and we met for a drink in his favorite bar within the hour. We hadn't seen each other since November, but coincidentally I had met the night before a person who knew him. My friend RC wanted to meet me, so we had agreed to meet in my favorite bar, but at the end she changed the plan and I went to her place for dinner, since she also wanted to introduce me to her friend RZ.

As S, RZ is also from Chile, but he flew the Dictadura and came to Berlin, where he settled down, married a German girl, had children, got divorced and moved to some island in the Atlantic. Somehow he met many years ago my friend RC, and now he was sitting there, in the kitchen, doing the pasta when I arrived.

During the dinner, he reacted when I mentioned an article on the New York Times. "I know somebody who works for the New York Times", he interrupted me. And a second later: "Wait, no, it was the BBC, never mind". My mind went off: Chile, BBC, Berlin... "Is it S?", I asked him. "Yes". I learned that he had met S some years ago and also one of his friends, M, who is also my friend.

So, last night, I told S this story, and he told me how good the films of RZ (a former painter who became film director) are.

Then we remembered a trip we did together one year ago, and he mentioned a girl we met there at the Book Fair. The memory of the booth made him recall an interview he had done during the Book Fair to a Chilean author, Carlos Franz. The name sounded familiar to me, but I did not know him. "Ah, yes, he just published some piece in Letras Libres, right?". "Exactly". But the truth is, I hadn't read his text.

"Well, it is a review of a new novel", S explained to me, "written also by a Chilean author, Arturo Fontaine". No idea, I had never heard that name before. S had had earlier that day an interview with Fontaine: "And he came to the studio with a young philosopher as crazy as you, doing a Ph.D. on Aristotle", he told me.

My mind went off again: Philosopher, Aristotle, Chile, Berlin. "Wait!", I yelled at him, "is it P?".

Yes, it was my friend P.

The world is so small!

Photo: Vivian Maier (1967)

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