“Buechner, Memory, and History”

As readers of this blog know, Frederick Buechner and his works have been incredibly influential in my life over the last ten years so it was a gracious gift from Dr. Andrew Newell to allow me to contribute an essay for the Buechner Review. I confess that I fretted about this essay because I was so anxious for it to reflect my admiration and love of Mr. Buechner and his works. In the end, I chose to consider the way in which FB engages with and evokes memory, both real and imagined, through his works, both fiction and nonfiction. The opening paragraphs are below and I hope you will click through to read the whole essay. – Cb


The term “anamnesis” is from the Attic Greek, ἀνάμνησις, and it means, “to call to mind, to reminisce.” In philosophy, it refers to Plato’s belief that learning is the rediscovery (the “recollection”) of knowledge which was innate within the soul prior to birth. In Socrates’ dialogue with Meno, the old teacher states, “there is no teaching, but only recollection.” All knowledge is remembering, recovering what the soul once knew. In Christian theology, the term refers specifically to the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharistic service—Christ’s “real presence” in the service—and generally to the recollection of all of God’s saving acts throughout history.

The Buechner Review is just such a remembrance and reminiscence of Frederick Buechner, his works, and the way in which they have impacted our own lives. Our offerings help to keep the memory of him alive and to keep his memories alive; we do this in remembrance of him. Buechner’s works, fiction and non-fiction alike, are themselves anamnestic. His writing is suffused with remembrances of times and places, events and conversations from his own life, some real and some imagined. The work of his life and literature is the calling to mind of knowledge and truth that was within him and simply needed to be unlocked.

Buechner himself observed that “memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still.”

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