Bernard Appassamy



Between Body and Memory (work in progress)

Handwriting a letter involved rituals, craft and layers of cognitive skills now bygone.

As a migrant from Mauritius before email, I have accumulated thousands of handwritten personal letters, aerogrammes and documents. These records span events, from the mundane to the notable, from birth to death, across several correspondents, countries and decades.

My community’s history is collated into the rings of a tree or a topographic map. The contents remain confidential, with only a hint of the singular handwriting. The laborious gluing of each layer of paper reflects the generosity of time and sentiment in these epistolary relationships.

For quite some months. they stayed in their boxes, while the contents of her desk went unexamined. It wasn't the weight of responsibility that held me back; more, superstition. Her body was gone, cremated according to her instructions; her memory, kept by family and friends and ex-students, would burn intermittently. But here, in my flat, was something between body and memory. Dead pieces of paper which were somehow capable of giving life.

from 'Elizabeth Finch' by Julian Barnes