History Must Stay Open

History follows governments and never men. It portrays us in generic patterns, like effigies or the carvings on sarcophagi, which say nothing save, of such and such a man, that he is dead. That’s history. It is concerned only with the one thing: to say everything is dead. Then it fixes up the effigy: there that’s finished. Not at all. History must stay open, it is all humanity. Are lives to be twisted forcibly about events, the mere accidents of geography and climate? It is an obscenity which few escape—save at the hands of the stylist, literature, in which alone humanity is protected against tyrannous designs.

— William Carlos Williams, In The American Grain: Essays (h/t Richard Cándida Smith, Improvised Continent: Pan-Americanism and Cultural Exchange)

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