Hannibal Lecter, Mnemonist

Dan mentioned in a comment that Hannibal Lecter used memory techniques in the book Hannibal by Thomas Harris.  I looked it up in Google and here is an excerpt from one of the novels:

…Hannibal went to the center of his own mind and into the foyer of his memory palace.  He elected for music in the corridors, a Bach string quartet, and passed quickly through the Hall of Mathematics, through Chemistry, to the room he’d adopted recently from the Carnavalet Museum and renamed the Hall of the Cranium.  It took only a few minutes to store everything, associating anatomical details with the set arrangements of displays in the Carnavalet, being careful not to put the venous blues of the face against blues in the tapestries.

When he had finished in the Hall of the Cranium, he paused for a moment in the Hall of Mathematics, near the entrance.  It was one of the oldest parts of the palace in his mind.  He wanted to treat himself to the feeling he got at the age of seven when he understood the proof Mr. Jakov showed him.  All of Mr. Jakov’s tutorial sessions at the castle were stored there, but none of their talks from the hunting lodge.

I wonder if the idea of not placing blue against blue comes from Luria’s Mind of a Mnemonist where Shereshevsky said he couldn’t remember an egg because he placed it against a white fence.

Hannibal Lecter has a interesting choice of music — I don’t think Bach wrote any string quartets… 🙂

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6 comments

  • In Acknowledgements, at the end of Hannibal, Harris writes, “In trying to understand the structure of Dr. Lecter’s memory palace, I was aided by Frances A. Yates remarkable book The Art of Memory, as well as Jonathan D. Spence’s The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci.” (Hannibal, p. 545)

    I remember, during an earlier time when I had an interest in memory, reading Luria’s The Mind of a Mnemonist. I had understood Shereshevsky had synesthesia. I clearly remember him talking about how his mind creates a journey, placing things in locations while walking through a town. But I thought this was useful merely to someone with S’s condition. I always wanted to develop synesthesia, even modestly. Too bad I didn’t stumble upon Dominic O’Brien’s book then. O’Brien talks about S’s technique in How to Develop a Perfect Memory:

    “There are also some striking resemblances between my approach and the techniques used by a Russian named Shereshevsky but known simply as S. Born at the end of the nineteenth century he was a constant source of bewilderment and fascination for Russian psychologists. To all intents and purposes, he had a limitless memory.” (p. 9)

  • I wonder if Shereshevsky read books on memory techniques. Didn’t his father own a bookstore?

  • “Art of Fugue” can be considered music for a string quartet as well, since Bach didn´t choose any instrument for it.

  • I guess that works — maybe Hannibal was listening to a CD of Art of Fugue performed by string quartet. 🙂

    I thought string quartets weren’t created until the very end of the Baroque. Art of Fugue can be performed by string quartet, but I don’t think Bach ever specifically wrote something called a “string quartet”. (Later composers like Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms did.)

    It doesn’t affect the book, but I couldn’t help noticing…

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