Focusing on the memories of Estonian refugees moving to Sweden in the wake of World War II, I analyze the concepts of “memory space” and history within the framework of the Escape as a master narrative. Following the research participants to the sites of their memories in Estonia and Sweden today, raised the questions what constitutes a lived memory space, and how is history defined within it?
Through a combination of a phenomenological analysis of memory’s lived experience, using Walter Benjamin’s concept of montage as radical remembering and its dialectical relation to history, I show how embodied memories shape their own space, a space not always framed by historical master narratives and identity positions, but rather a searching space that is always changing. Dealing with the politics of place and representations, these memories are constantly loaded and unloaded with meaning. Yet the space of lived memory is not always a creation of meaning. Walking around, searching for traces, a memory space confronts the place and maps its own geography. It turns to a spatial and temporal flow, which intertwines place and experience, and erases the past and future as homogeneous categories. It is a living space of memory, rather than a memorial space of representations.
The analysis focuses further on the tensions between remembering as a dialogue with history and memory’s ongoing acts of embodied experience. The position of in-betweenness appears in these stories of escape, not as a state of in-between home and away, past and present, but rather as an ongoing space-making process between different modes and layers of memory. This is a process aware of the constant changes in the understandings of both history and personal experiences, intertwining these new interpretations with embodied memory and thereby constantly adding new layers of experience to it. Memory’s tracing illuminates a memory poetics of the meanwhile and the in-between, which refuses historical closure.