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In the Dark Room by Brian Dillon

In the Dark Room by Brian Dillon

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Boldly combining the highly personal with the brilliantly scholarly, In the Dark Room explores the question of how memory works emotionally and culturally. It is narrated through the prism of the author's experience of losing both his parents, his mother when he was sixteen, his father when he was on the cusp of adulthood and of trying, after a breakdown some years later, to piece things together. Drawing on the lessons of centuries of literature, philosophy and visual art, Dillon interprets the relics of his parents and of his childhood in a singularly original and arresting piece of writing reissued for the first time since its original publication in 2005, and including a new foreword from prize-winning biographer Frances Wilson.

In the Dark Room is a wonderfully controlled yet passionate meditation on memory and the things of the past, those that are lost and those, fewer, that remain: on what, in a late work, Beckett beautifully reduced to “time and grief and self, so-called”. Retracing his steps through his own life and the lives of the family in the midst of which he grew up, Brian Dillon takes for guides some of the great connoisseurs of melancholy, from St Augustine to W. G. Sebald, by way of Sir Thomas Browne and Marcel Proust and Walter Benjamin. The result is a deeply moving testament, free of sentimentality and evasion, to life's intricacies and the pleasures and the inevitable pains they entail. In defiance of so much that is ephemeral, this is a book that will live.’ 
— John Banville, winner of the Booker Prize for The Sea in 2005 

In the Dark Room moves beyond the specificity of recollected grief to explore the history of attempts to understand memory, from De Quincey to Proust and Bachelard. Like Van Veen in Nabokov’s Ada or Ardor, Dillon delights in the texture of time, “in its stuff and spread, in the fall of its folds”. The personal blends effortlessly with the universal to form a deeply evocative meditation on loss and the passage of time.’
— P. D. Smith, Guardian

‘It is the deeply emotive nature of his “journey into memory” that presents Dillon with such a formidable task. Yet he not only succeeds in translating his personal experience into a book of immense, disturbingly lucid insight, but in doing so has written a meditation on the nature of memory that, in many places, could compare to the most open-hearted writings of Roland Barthes. It is an amazing achievement in terms of prose style alone.’
— Michael Bracewell, Daily Telegraph

‘There are plenty of memoirs of unhappy childhoods on our shelves. Few of them, though, have the intelligence or rigour of this first book by critic Brian Dillon, which is less a personal narrative than an anguished monument to the idea of memory itself. ... Of all the cultural heavyweights he calls as witness (such as Barthes, Benjamin and Sebald), none fits Dillon’s book better than Rachel Whiteread. His home was as filled with silence, sulky, embarrassed and pained, as was her “House” with miraculously solidified space. In the Dark Room is an equally impressive achievement.’
— Jonathan Gibbs, Independent