Historical Ambivalence & Understanding

The writer’s empathy…is…itself born in voyeurism. Understanding the past is inextricably bound up with guilt: writing history requires an imaginative leap into a time and a place where one was not, an exercise insisting upon a simultaneous violation of and identification with the other. This book…lays bare the ambivalent process of writing history. It also, I hope, reveals something about what it means to understand.

— Marci Shore, The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe, quoted in Norman Davies, “The Deep Stains of Dictatorship,” New York Review of Books, 9 May 2013.

Featured image: Eustache Le Sueur, The Muses Clio, Euterpe and Thalia (1640/5).

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