Getting High On Albertine

“The Albertine Notes” was captivating, yet at times hard to follow. Like any nonlinear narrative, plot points get confusing because we aren’t sure what’s happening now, what’s a memory, and what’s a prophesy. I felt like I too was on Albertine. Though not as a “geek” with perfect memory, but rather a forgetter, constantly trying to remind myself that past, present, and future are one in the same, and not three separate entities as we are familiar with in the linear sense. This sort of timelessness, as we all now know, is inherently apocalyptic.

The drug Albertine reminded me of several things that we’ve gone over this year. Most prominently, it reminded me of some research I came across while doing the final paper, probably because it is most recent in my mind. Daniel Pinchbeck, author of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, promotes the use of psychedelic drugs to bring about a higher spiritual consciousness in progression of the evolution of humanity. Albertine at first reminded me of this type of drug. It is a drug that can literally enhance consciousness, making its users aware of events that haven’t happened yet in the linear future while having them simultaneously re-experience their remembered past.

Because of this, Albertine also reminded me of Watchmen. The insights given to people who are high on Albertine are similar to those of Dr. Manhattan. The world becomes so unbelievably bleak because this higher knowledge of time seems to take away something from humanity. It makes most of the characters in this short story act more like zombies, addicted to this drug that they can’t let go of in this post-apocalyptic world. It allows them to know what’s happening next, but more importantly, it allows them to remember things from the linear past. It is a common theme of post-apocalyptic stories to be nostalgic, as noted in Watchmen by Veidt’s perfume named “Nostalgia.” Albertine opportunely popped up suddenly after a catastrophic nuclear explosion that destroyed half of New York City. Needless to say, this apocalyptic incident is dramatically reminiscent of 9/11. Anyway, Albertine remains consistent with apocalypse survivors’ need to fondly remember that which used to be. However, the unique aspect about this drug is that it lets people vividly remember both the good and the bad. I imagine the former might be quite euphoric, being able to relive happy memories, while the latter might be like a bad acid trip, reliving an inescapable nightmare. And it is because of this that the world continues to be bleak. The drug undergoes deification by society, constantly being referenced as names like “bitch goddess of the overwhelming past” (136). Yet as you can tell from this lovely quote, Albertine is not a loving god. She offers no salvation, nor any hope, except maybe if one were to change the past inside a memory.

This part now reminds me of Inception, though it honestly gets a little too confusing for me to try to analyze. Even Kevin seems confused by it towards the end when he says “I’m already high, I’m already in somebody’s memory, I don’t even know if it’s my own memory anymore, so you’re getting me high inside a memory; that’s a memory inside a memory, right?” (214). Though at the very end of the story, when he is able to see the past while traveling into the future, one thing seems to be clear – that “time” has no beginning nor end and we are mere participants of an ongoing, timeless universe.

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