Creative Matters

The Future Imperfect: Memoir and the Family Photograph




Memoir, Life writing and Photography, Family Photography, Family Album, Forgetting, Time and the Photograph, Mourning


In ‘The Future Imperfect’ Petra Rau reflects on the meaning of her mother’s narrowly averted attempt to discard the family photo albums, and on the function of the photo album as a retroactive personal narrative. The difficulty of reading family photographs that precede one’s own experience and recollection is the subject of the second part, an excerpt from the as yet unpublished family memoir Hinterland.

Author Biography

Petra Rau, University of East Anglia

Petra Rau is a Senior Fellow in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA. She is the author of several books and edited collections on war writing, fascism and film, among them Our Nazis: Representations of Fascism in Contemporary Fiction and Film (Edinburgh 2013). Most recently she has co-edited a collection of essays, entitled Europe in British Literature and Culture (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2024). Hinterland: A Family Memoir emerged, like a latent image in a chemical bath, from British-Academy funded research on the postwar representation of forced migration and a Leverhulme Trust funded project on working-class women in twentieth-century Germany. Petra is currently working on a non-fiction book about Lake Wannsee near Berlin and on a collection of essays about grief and posthumous objects.





Creative Matters