Owing to the Greeks
Tom McCarthy on historical roots of the European Union fiscal crisis
“This echo in German of a Greek theme or relation is exemplary: Germany has always been particularly indebted to Greece. Indeed, from a cultural point of view, it could be argued that Germany more or less created itself as a modern state by plugging into vast reserves of Greekness. The poet Hölderlin reinvented his native Swabia by remolding it as mythical Hellenic Patmos. Heidegger elaborated his theories from the writings of Parmenides, Anaximander and Aristotle. Germany, in the best instances, has in return read Greece back to itself — as witnessed by the work of archaeologists such as Schliemann, who interpreted the findings at Troy and Mycenae. But the demands now being forced on Greece by the German government, the requisition of the former’s civic cash box on bill-owing technicalities placed on its “schulder” by far-from-trustworthy patriarchs, represent a worst instance, founded (it seems) on a willful misinterpretation of the nature of indebtedness and culpability. Greece is schuldig by definition, since it owes. But its debt, crippling though it is to the Hellenic household, is miniature compared with that of a nation that, within living memory, first (during occupation) plundered Greece’s gold, then (after armistice) received monumental sums of unearned credit…”
“Do we mistake inaccessibility for brilliance?”
Leslie Jamison in NYT’s Bookends column (turkey headline), August 30
“…But in reading those 50 pages a day, I found that any binary I might draw between absorption and intentionality was far more porous than I’d imagined: I moved constantly between rapture and effort; often these modes were entangled and simultaneous. That month of commitment ended up mattering not because I was always immersed but because I often wasn’t, and kept reading anyway — because I was perpetually recommitting myself to the novel, and because that recommitment was an act with great wingspan and grit. I was invited into a different understanding of what authentic literary absorption might look like: neither struggle nor bliss but a strange weave of the two; not completely “losing myself” in a book but feeling myself more deeply in the act of reckoning with it — becoming aware of my own attention, becoming an agent in its application.
“Difficulty often becomes an engine forcing intimacy between a book and its reader; that expenditure of effort and attention becomes a kind of glue. I don’t like to unthinkingly valorize the impenetrable, but I do appreciate the attempt it necessitates — the duration and density of that process. When we read a book that requires that effort — when the act of reading becomes rigorous and self-aware, rather than effortless and transparent — we get to have a history with what we’ve given ourselves to, a history etched into us by the demanding friction of its difficulty…”
[“AnaximanderRelief” by Unknown. old art. – Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Special Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage of Rome (from C Rovelli “The First Scientist”, Westholme 2011).. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.]