Winter 2009–2010

Speak Not, Memory

Sina Najafi

Children’s stories in Iran always begin, “Once upon a time there was, once upon a time there was not,” and this is a story for children. This is a true story. This is not a true story.


A while back, an email arrived at the magazine from someone named Kamran asking if the Sina Najafi on the masthead was the same Sina Najafi who had been at a particular grade school in Tehran in the 1970s. I responded to confirm that I had attended that school before my family emigrated to England in 1975, and asked if he had been there as well. Kamran wrote back that he was surprised at my lapse in memory since at school, from the age of five to the age of ten, he and I had been “the closest of friends.” Attached to his email was an image of two little boys in shorts holding hands. On it, he had written “You” and “Me.” I still did not recall him, and so over the next few days, he scanned and sent dozens more photographs from our school days. On each image were the helpful words “You” and “Me.” We were inseparable, it seems, often arm in arm, always next to each other when possible. I remembered nothing. Our correspondence ended with Kamran writing, “You apparently never cared for our friendship like I did.”


Perhaps he was right. Perhaps this was simply the story of a friendship whose proportions were vastly different from the two perspectives. But there are other possibilities. Perhaps ours was a relationship whose very intensity made it impossible for it to be recorded in my memory. Or perhaps the lapse can be ascribed to exile and its effect on memories of the lost home.


This is a true story. This is not a true story.



The portfolio that follows includes contributions from a number of artists and writers who were invited to respond to this story in words or images, directly or obliquely, in any way they wished. See links below.

Revolution in Mind, Albert Mobilio
Letter to an Unremembered Companion, Christine Wetheim
Artist Project / My K.A.P. Friends, Sabrina Gschwandtner
(Face)book of the Dead, Mary Dery
On the Misrecognition of Friends, D. Graham Burnett
Trust Me, I've Never Done This Before, Richard Fleming
Project For the Separation of Friends, Shelley Jackson

Sina Najafi is editor-in-chief of Cabinet.