Monday, April 03, 2006

On Historical Facts

Excerpt taken from How to Quiet a Vampire, English translation by Stephen M. Dickey and Bogdan Rakić; copyright © 2005 by Northwestern University Press (pp. 20-21). Originally published in Serbian – Kako upokojiti vampira, © 1977 by Borislav Pekić.

(…)Why fool ourselves, Hilmar? Even the best among us never get beyond a more or less conscientious reconstruction of historical facts. But historical facts are the oysters from which time has already extracted its pearls. Despite an abundance material, we are unable to restore their living innards; we have only the dry, dead shells, leaving beyond our knowledge and perception everything that really happened under those enigmatic ciphers of the past, no matter if it assumed the cruelest forms of suffering, tribulation, and death. However, it is those innards, as I realize only now, that comprise the only relevant content of a real history, which will never be written down. (…)

(…) For something like that [1] you need a conception of history as a material in a hard, aggregate state. Adam’s transfiguration demonstrates that the true aggregate state of history is gaseous, resembling smoke, which constantly changes form. And when we finally succeed in discerning it, it leaves in our consciousness hardly a single droplet of truth. And under such conditions, what sense is there to even the most conscientious historiography?

[1] I.e. - writing a book on Polish history. (ed. note)

No comments: