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May 10, 2007

The Movement of History

"The movement of history is heavy, and slow. The movement of history always takes place behind one's back. As your gaze is fixed upon something immediately in front of you -- the object of your anger, for example -- history makes a slight, almost imperceptible slither, or shudder, in a direction of its own choice. The distinguishing mark of this direction is that it is not the one you had anticapted. How history does this is not known. Because history is made up of the will of all individuals taken together, because these oceans of individuals are mostly, or always, in conflict, the movement of history is at one and the same time tightly bound, and outrageous....Study of the previous behavior of history does not prepare one for these shifts, which are discomfiting in the extreme. Nothing prepares you."

Donald Barthelme, "The Angry Young Man," Guilty Pleasures (1974)

(crossposted at Cliopatria)

Posted by smclemee at May 10, 2007 10:06 AM