>>It is of course true that millions of other people lost their lives in this conflict, often in unprecedentedly horrible ways, and that new tyrannies were imposed on the countries—Poland, Czechoslovakia and China most notably—that had been the pretexts for a war against fascism. But is this not to think in the short term? Unless or until Nazism had been vanquished, millions of people were most certainly going to be either massacred or enslaved in any case.<< Christopher Hitchens: A War Worth Fighting
Category: Cut-up History
Constantinus Africanus: born in a city that did not exist
Peter [the Deacon, who wrote in the twelfth century] tells us that Constantinus was born at Carthage, by which he probably means Tunis, since Carthage was no longer in existence, but went to Babylon, by which Cairo is presumably designated, since Babylon had ages before been reduced to a dust heap, to improve his education. His birth must have been around 1015.
Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, vol.1, p.744. Thorndike does not give any further reasons for those substitutions, i.e. why anyone would have referred to Cairo as Babylon, if it was common among writers of the time etc. He also translates “regis Babiloniorum” (of the king of the Babylonians) as “of the caliph,” apparently for the same reason.
Exactitude and fantasy
>>Early Greek history “sets a special challenge to the disciplined mind. It is a game with very few pieces, where the skill of the players lies in complicating the rules”. So wrote Iris Murdoch in her novel The Nice and the Good. Strictly speaking, she was referring to the archaic period. But in practical terms, it could be extended to embrace the whole of ancient history, where sources are few; or, rather, appear in a sudden floods (usually associated with a very well-preserved writer such as Cicero) closely followed by frustrating periods of drought. Historians must wring every last drop of juice from this or that inscription, potsherd, or literary source, proceeding with painstaking care and engaging in minute acts of close-reading. But then the fun of it is that they may make the most extraordinary leaps of the imagination to bridge the gaps. This process, of almost pettifogging exactitude combined with what some might regard as little short of fantasy, can be frustrating. But it is this marriage of precision, abstract thinking and creativity that makes ancient history so absorbing and endlessly fresh. Someone is always coming along and knocking down the fragile house of cards constructed by the last thinker, and boldly building another elegant edifice.<< Charlotte Higgins: End of an era (Guardian)
Library Cut-up No. 1
Royal Holloway University of London, 801.95
Imagine a radical movement which had suffered an emphatic defeat. Worse is to follow. It is disease that makes health sweet and good. It is precisely because creatures are incomplete that they are living.
Language takes precedence. It chases its own tail. It was parodic, and aimed sharply and polemically against the official languages of its time.
There is no question of a fixed, historically immutable relationship here. The lynch-pin of the teaching of Heraclitus, as it has come down to us, is the idea of unity in opposites.
Every man’s life my be best written by himself. As he reads, there is a constant ‘feedback’ of ‘information’ already received, so that he himself is bound to insert his own ideas into the process of communication. You cannot pass this by, nor escape its force. All great writers want to become like Faust.
The commodity, pace Adorno, cannot be its own ideology, at least not yet. So one could preserve one’s ontology without the embarassment of having to pretend that there was nothing to choose between Goethe and Goebbels. The nature of this duplication is essential for an understanding of irony.
The objects are too dissimilar. ‘To generalize is to be an idiot’, but not to draw conclusions from experience is to be something of a fool.
Questions From A Worker Who Reads
>>Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished
Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished
Did the masons go? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song
Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
The night the ocean engulfed it
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not have even a cook with him?
Philip of Spain wept when his armada
Went down. Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Year’s War. Who
Else won it?
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man?
Who paid the bill?
So many reports.
So many questions.<< Brecht again.
>>The mythology states, in effect, that there is no history but Arab history. There is no history but Muslim history. Zionism (and Zionism is what he is talking about here) is an alien force. A bizarre, demiurgical act of violence against the natural development of human events. I must emphasize the artificiality of this mythos. History is not natural. That is, the very idea of history as a natural development, operating under reasonable and autonomous rules, is itself a human creation.<<
“The Ghetto of History” by The Anti-Chomskyite.