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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Italian Canadian writer Marisa De Franceschi describes her family voyage to Canada in her first novel “Surface Tension”:
I can’t remember the ocean crossing. I only remember what they have told me about it.

I have heard the stories countless times. If that part of the memory which is sealed in the vault of early childhood could resurrect them, they wouldn’t be more vivid.

We sailed just after the second great war. That’s what my father used to call it. It was great because it managed to annihilate populations, destroy vast cities, and create havoc all over the world.

We are on a Turkish cargo ship sailing from Genoa. It has a strange foreign name. All I am able to say of it are the first words: the Mohammed Ali.
Our destination is Canada. We have relatives there: a great aunt and some cousins. They have been in America since the first great war. This is what I hear my parents say. This is how I learn there have been two great wars.
My parents say our relatives are in the hotel business and they are rich. We are going to be staying with them.

It is here my personal memory begins. I find this quite remarkable. To not be able to squeeze out remembrances of that turbulent voyage but to remember events that followed so soon after. From here on, I do not have to rely on the memory of others. I can now accumulate and store events that will surface later, retrieving bits and pieces whenever there is a catalyst. Some, I will notice, remain dormant for decades. But they exist regardless. They are there. And I begin to wonder, what else will I uncover? And when?
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