Memento Mori by Jonathan Nolan

Memento MoriRating:

Memento Mori is the free short story that inspired Nolan’s brother, Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar) to make mind-bending film Memento starring Guy Pearce.

Earl is a permanent patient at a hospital since he was injured in the attack which saw Earl’s wife raped and killed. His injury has caused permanent brain damage meaning he’s unable to convert short-term into long-term memories. Earl remembers everything before the damage, but nothing after, so his memory is only ten minutes long.

You can’t have a normal life anymore. You must know that. How can you have a girlfriend if you can’t remember her name? Can’t have kids, not unless you want them to grow up with a dad who doesn’t recognize them. Sure as hell can’t hold down a job. Not too many professions out there that value forgetfulness. Prostitution, maybe. Politics, of course.

No. Your life is over. You’re a dead man. The only thing the doctors are hoping to do is teach you to be less of a burden to the orderlies. And they’ll probably never let you go home, wherever that would be.

So the question is not “to be or not to be,” because you aren’t. The question is whether you want to do something about it. Whether revenge matters to you.

It does to most people. For a few weeks, they plot, they scheme, they take measures to get even. But the passage of time is all it takes to erode that initial impulse. Time is theft, isn’t that what they say? And time eventually convinces most of us that forgiveness is a virtue. Conveniently, cowardice and forgiveness look identical at a certain distance. Time steals your nerve.

No doubt Memento Mori is interesting and insightful. A man with no memory has nothing to lose. Punishment for taking revenge on his wife’s killer is going to be meaningless to him, although I’m not sure it’s realistic for Earl to actually achieve this goal with a ten-minute memory even with the notes tattooed on his body to remind him of what he needs to do.

Jonathan Nolan’s narration of Memento Mori is also available for free on YouTube.

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