Mnemosyne—Titaness and personification of memory in Greek mythology—was mother to the Muses; her nine consecutive nights of coition with Zeus produced lyric poetry, history, music, tragedy, astronomy, and so on. Memory, like the Muses themselves, will not always perform on command; trying to recall a past event doesn’t necessarily get one very far. But, as Marcel Proust knew, occasionally the past comes back unbidden and more vividly than if it had been consciously called up. Proust’s famous episode at the beginning of À la recherche du temps perdu captures young Marcel’s experience of this kind of “involuntary memory”:

I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran...


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