The notion of memory is complex, and much has been written about it by people as diverse as chemists, neurophysiologists, philosophers, critics, and novelists. My own past, by which I mean such of my ‘past’ as I can in some sense recall and thus own, is a vague and jumbled collection of narratives, mixed with sensual images of varying intensity and verisimilitude. I have no way of checking its constancy, as that would involve two memories: a reliable one which remains constant, and the one which I’d be checking for constancy. Some believe that the act of recalling the past alters the memory, so that the most frequent and familiar of memories, those most recalled, are likely to be the most unreliable. I share this belief, but have no real way of testing it.
The brain, which is thought to be the repository of memory, is an intricate structure, but it can no more match the intricacy of the world it attempts to capture than one can cram an ocean into a one and a half litre punnet.