What is history? – Quote(s) by Julian Barnes

The following is an excerpt from Julian Barnes’ 2011 Man Booker Prize winning novel “The sense of an ending”, which I began reading just a few minutes ago (Well, I skimmed through yesterday night, to decide on reading though!).

‘We could start, perhaps, with a seemingly simple question, What is History? Any thoughts, Webster?’
‘History is the lies of the victors’, I replied, a little too quickly.
‘Yes, I was rather afraid you’d say that. Well, as long as you remember that it is also the self-delusions of the defeated. Simpson?’
Colin was more prepared than me. ‘History is a raw onion sandwich,sir’
‘For what reason?’
‘It just repeats, sir. It burps. We’ve seen it again and again this year. Same old story, same old oscillation between tyranny and rebellion, war and peace, prosperity and impoverishment.’
‘Rather a lot for a sandwich to contain, wouldn’t you say?’
We laughed far more than was required, with an end-of-term hysteria.
‘History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation’
‘Is it, indeed? Where did you find that?’
‘Lagrange, sir. Patrick Lagrange. He’s French.’
(and after few more pages)
‘History isn’t the lies of the victors,as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated’
After reading this part…and what followed afterwards, I am reminded of a poem, of which I thought about several times in the past one year …and of also a statement, which has been ringing in my ears, time and again, in the past few years.

1) “ఏ దేశ చరిత్ర చూసినా, ఏమున్నది గర్వ కారణం, నర జాతి చరిత్ర సమస్తం, పర పీడన పరాయణత్వం” (What is there to take pride in, in any country’s history? Mankind’s history is full of having pleasure in the pain of others.), as said by SriSri in a poem.

2) “నిజమైన మనుష్యులకు అసలు చరిత్రే లేదు వారికి గతమూ లేదు , అనాగతమూ లేదు” (Normal humans do not have a history at all. They neither have a past, nor future)…as said by Sirivennela Sitaramasastry, in one of his short stories “Charitra Chorulu”.

Although I read many reviews online, get a lot of book recommendations from friends and family, from recommendation systems…and I log every name (or try to)…in my memory, I don’t understand what data structure it follows. Because, the next book I pick up almost never is from the recent strong recommendations ;).. and many times, not from any recommendations whatsoever …But, this time, it was(No, I do listen to recommendations…and read them some time. Its just that my mind also has its own recommendation system and about its algorithm, I have no clue!). Thanks to Dr Jampala Chowdary’s review on pustakam.net.

Published in: on March 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. బాగున్నాయి. ఇంట్రస్టింగ్ గా.
    Made me to put this book in my short-list.

    ‘History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation’.

    “certainty” అన్న పదం ఎందుకు వాడారో?!

  2. ఎల్ల కాలం విజేత చెప్పిందే చరిత్ర కాదు .. పరాజితులు, బాధితులు కూడా గొంతెత్తి తమ చరిత్ర వినిపించే రోజు వస్తుంది

  3. “Memory is far more edited than we’d like to believe”

    “”( This book is about ) What time does to memory and what memory does to time, how they interact…”

    “memory is the act of imagination, rather than the act of a lucid remembering machine somewhere up in our brains.”

    “…maybe the ways we present ourselves are not how we really are.”

    “…like life, by the time we know the whole story — alas — it’s too late.”

    You can listen to his interviews about this book here::





  4. […] Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes Tony Webster అనే మధ్యవయసు వ్యక్తి, పెళ్ళయి విడాకులు తీసుకుని,  పిల్లలూ మనవలతో సాఫీగా మిగిలిన జీవితం గడుపుతుంటాడు. నలభయ్యేళ్ల క్రితం కాలేజీలో చదువుకునే రోజుల్లోని తన గర్ల్ ఫ్రెండ్ తల్లి పంపిన పార్సెల్ లో ఉన్న అతని చిన్ననాటి స్నేహితుడి డైరీ అతనికి తెలియని రహస్యాలకీ, పాత జ్ఞాపకాలకీ తెర తీస్తుంది.  Memory is not what you witnessed అని, Memory is imperfect అనీ తెలియచేసే నవల. దీనికి 2011 లో  Man Booker Prize లభించింది. ఈ పుస్తకానికి రెండు చక్కని పరిచయాలు, జంపాల చౌదరి గారు రాసిన పరిచయం ఒకటి మరియు సౌమ్య రాసిన పరిచయం. […]

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