the only realistic artist

“Where was it written that you were obliged to recite the catechism of all things seen? My father would have to be selective or he wouldn’t be able to live with himself, as the expression puts it. All these memoirs he read with faltering interest and smarting eyes had been selected from other stuff, and if God was the only realistic artist, as Camus said, then why compete? Yet I could tell that some absolute of memory taunted him, as if not to remember the all insulted memory itself, but how could you snub memory, that random exchange of fluctuating chemicals ever under the duress of the so-called present? It haunted him nonetheless, maybe because he thought he would be the only survivor, Ishmael of the Somme, deputed to do duty on Remembrance Day as if Woodcock and Race did not exist and never had. I tried to coax myself into tracing my father’s mental processes year after year, noting how, of what he elected to remember, nothing fell away, but stuck there like the images in some altar-screen, all encrusted paint and holy permanence.”

(Paul West, My Father’s War: A Memoir, pp. 152–3.)

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