History vs. reality
Posted by Jane Elizabeth on November 15, 1997 at 14:53:09:
I read an interview of Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian whose bios of several presidents are well known. She has a new book out, a memoir of her happy childhood (how unusual to write about one's HAPPY childhood!) In the interview, she said that she was once standing in the Kennedy house in Palm Beach and she thought for a moment: would she give up all her notes, all the accumulated letters and documents that would eventually form her written history, for one hour in that house in 1938? And she decided the answer was no. Her love and life was writing the story of history, not a desire to experience it.
I thought of this in relation to the scholars in Possession. Would Roland or Maud give up all their research and documents about the past in exchange for one hour living in it? One hour in Ash's house, in Yorkshire, with Christabel in the tower? The answer for them is most likely also a resounding No. Their raison d'etre is the act of discovering and investigating, and then INVENTING their own version of things. It isn't really truth they're after, but a way of making the past relevant to themselves.
All history is fiction after all. And if you went back in time, to Agincourt, or Camelot, or anywhere, all you could do with the knowledge would be to retell it from your own point of view. The truth would be your own invention.
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