How Do You Write a Memoir of the Internet?

How Do You Write a Memoir of the Internet?
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

N 2016, the year his newly translated memoir, Fragments of an Infinite Memory, came out in France, Maël Renouard published a short essay that could have accompanied the book as an artist’s statement. “If it hopes to describe the twists and turns of a mind as accurately as possible,” he wrote in the Brooklyn Rail, “the literature of introspection, whether autobiography or psychological novel, ought now to mention the name Google every sentence or two.”

Google, here, is a metonym for the internet. In one of his book’s nearly two hundred “fragments”—short reflections about life online—Renouard develops the idea further. The internet, he argues, has had a more profound effect on literature than other world-changing inventions. A three-hundred-page novel set in 1990 could omit phones without difficulty. “But the internet has become so coextensive with all our mental acts, with all our moments—of boredom, idleness, frantic work, philosophical reflection, personal anxiety—that a character in the 2010s who was deprived of its use for one reason or another couldn’t fail to be obsessed by its absence.”

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