Memoir is a written factual account of somebody’s life. It comes from France, where it is called as ‘mémoire’ meaning memory or reminiscence. This literary technique tells a story about the experiences of someone’s life. However, a literary memoir, on the other hand, is usually about a specific theme, or about a part of someone’s life, as it is a story with a proper narrative shape, focus and subject matter, involving reflection on some particular events or places. Memoirs are often associated with popular personalities such as celebrities, sportsmen, soldiers, singers and writers, etc. It allows making a connection with what audience find captivating, interesting, appealing and engaging.
Memoir and Autobiography
Memoir falls under the category of autobiography, but is used as its sub-genre. The major difference between these two is that a memoir is a centralized and more specific term, while an autobiography spans the entire life of a person with intricate details such as the childhood, family history, education and profession. However, a memoir on the contrary, is specified and focused that tells the story of somebody’s life or focuses on an important event occurred on a specific time and place.
Examples of Memoir in Literature
Real life is always more interesting and appealing as a fiction work. Let us have a look at highly commended memoirs in literature:
Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway was an acclaimed celebrity during the times when public would treat American writers like movie stars. His memoir A Moveable Feast was published after his death in 1964. This memoir is about a collection of stories and his time spent in Paris as a writer in 1920s, before attaining popularity. During these days, he was acquainted with many other famous writers including: Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein.
Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak Memory
This memoir is about the description of Nabokov’s childhood and years he spent before shifting to America in 1940; however, it is not the exact reason of writing this memoir. More notably, this book is about a tale of his art, as it serves as a model of that art. In addition, it includes its themes, imagery and symbols which build up a structure in the minds of readers besides making up the book. Like always, prose writing of Nabokov is flawless, brilliant and overwhelming, while his playful writing style makes his work seem fascinating.
George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia
This is Orwell’s gripping tale of his days during Spanish Civil War. He has described it with his typical trademark of journalistic wink, which is one of the best works. Honest and unwavering, Orwell narrates his personal experience without inducing any agenda, recording different things from that era as he saw them. Philip Mairet mentioned about this account as this work shows the people a heart of innocence living in revolutionary days.
Art Spiegelman’s Maus
Although we can find many wonderful Holocaust and deeply affecting memoirs to make this a list, Maus is one of the most well-liked memoir with its distressing story covered with perfect illustrations by Spiegelman. We might think that imagining different characters appear with animal faces would make the story horrible and look less intense and more irritating; nevertheless, it is rather opposite. If we know the comic style, we learn that blank iconic faces and the outlook of the mice in this memoir that allows the audience to put themselves in their shoes to understand the story more easily.
Function of Memoir
Memoir has been around since ancient times. Perhaps, Julius Caesar was the first memoirist, who wrote and depicted his personal experiences about epic battles. Later, it became a popular and acclaimed literary genre. Memoir serves as to preserve the history through a person’ eyes, having lived it. Through memoir, show biz celebrities also tell harsh sides of their careers; rock stars tell their fans about tough days spent in distress; drug addicts reveal their struggle for seeking normal life; soldiers write war experiences; people who are mentally ill describe ups and downs to achieve clarity, and authors tell particular events happened before their eyes in their lives. Hence, the function of memoir is to provide a window to the audience to have a look into lives of other people.