IBNA- A book by American non-fiction writer and policy analyst David Rieff titled, 'In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and Its Ironies' which explores ethical paradox of history's wounds has been published in Persian.
Here, David Rieff, the only child of Susan Sontag argues the contrarian position that sometimes history, including past mass atrocities, is better forgotten than commemorated. The book has been translated into Persian by Mas’oud Shirbacheh and Mo’azam Vatankhah. Gostareh Publishing has released 'In Praise of Forgetting' in 240 pages and 1100 copies.
The conventional wisdom about historical memory is summed up in George Santayana’s celebrated phrase, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Today, the consensus that it is moral to remember, immoral to forget, is nearly absolute. And yet is this right?
Rieff, an independent writer who has reported on bloody conflicts in Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia, insists that things are not so simple. He poses hard questions about whether remembrance ever truly has, or indeed ever could, “inoculate” the present against repeating the crimes of the past.
The author distinguishes history and (collective) memory: "History is about the past, whereas memory is about how we use the past for the present." The latter, he maintains, often has little to do with history and should not be uncritically celebrated as an end in itself. Rieff argues for a pragmatic weighing of the costs and benefits of remembering versus forgetting, rather than a morally absolutist position that memory is always desirable.
He argues that rubbing raw historical wounds—whether self-inflicted or imposed by outside forces—neither remedies injustice nor confers reconciliation. If he is right, then historical memory is not a moral imperative but rather a moral option—sometimes called for, sometimes not. Collective remembrance can be toxic. Sometimes, Rieff concludes, it may be more moral to forget.
Ranging widely across some of the defining conflicts of modern times—the Irish Troubles and the Easter Uprising of 1916, the white settlement of Australia, the American Civil War, the Balkan wars, the Holocaust, and 9/11—Rieff presents a pellucid examination of the uses and abuses of historical memory. His contentious, brilliant, and elegant essay is an indispensable work of moral philosophy.
The book sparked debates at Jewish Book Week and the International Center for Transitional Justice.
Rieff was a senior editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux from 1978 to 1989. He has at various times been a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research, a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University, a board member of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch of the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Institute, and of Independent Diplomat.
He has published articles in newspapers and journals including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, El Pais, The New Republic, World Affairs, Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, The Nation.
Rieff has written about the Bosnian War. Despite his initial support of the tenets of Liberal internationalism, he was critical of American policies and goals in the Iraq War. His 2016 article in The Guardian, "The cult of memory: when history does more harm than good"—which argues that some mass atrocities are better forgotten—sparked a debate at the International Center for Transitional Justice.