Friday, January 7, 2011

A Note on the Past

If you live in a small intense country like Israel, over time you begin to recognize that there is a very big difference between what one might call ‘history’ and what one might call ‘the past.’ History is an official version of what happened, the one depicted in books and what is talked about on the news. The past is a place of shadows, whispers, failures, and defeats. The past is what you read in people’s faces after the bombings and what you hear underneath the mob’s cries. A mother hums it as she boils the pot of what she’ll serve for dinner, and the father reads it to his children at bedtime. The past exists in multiplicities as does each person’s idea of his or her future.

The past, like the idea of time, means something different every time it’s talked about and defies translation. History means one thing, or at least one thing at a time.

The two can never be reconciled.

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