The Historian

As a historian, I have learned that, in fact, not everyone who reaches back into history can survive it. And it is not only reaching back that endangers us; sometimes history itself reaches inexorably forward for us with its shadowy claws.

As an adult I have often known that peculiar legacy time brings to the traveler: the longing to seek out a place a second time, to find deliberately what we stumbled on once before, to recapture the feeling of discovery. Sometimes we search out again even a place that was not remarkable itself - we look for it simply because we remember it. If we do find it, of course, everything is different. The rough-hewn door is still there, but it's much smaller; the day is cloudy instead of brilliant; it's spring instead of autumn; we're alone instead of with three friends. Or worse, with three friends instead of alone.

As you know, human history is full of evil deeds, and maybe we ought to think of them with tears, not fascination.

Festina Lente (Hurry in slowly)

For the first time, I had been struck by the excitement of the traveler who looks history in her subtle face.

He brought his great hand to rest on an early edition of Bram Stoker's novel and smiled, but said nothing. Then he moved quietly away into another section.

...History it seemed could be something entirely different a splash of blood whose agony didn't fade overnight or over centuries.

If there is any good in life, in history, in my own past, I invoke it now. I invoke it with all the passion with which I have lived.

In my mortal life, I saw mainly those texts that the church sanctioned--the gospels and the Orthodox commentary on them, for example. These works were of no use to me, in the end.

It gave me a feeling of temporary acceptance into that elite community, to stroll across the quad at his side. It also gave me my first faint quiver of sexual belonging, the elusive feeling that if I slipped my hand into his as we walked along, a door would fall open somewhere in the long wall of reality as I knew it, never to be closed again.

[I]t seemed to me now that a Catholic church was the right companion for all these horrors. Didn't Catholicism deal with blood and resurrected flesh on a daily basis? Wasn't it expert in superstition? I somehow doubted that the hospitable plain Protestant chapels that dotted the university could be much help; they didn't look qualified to wrestle with the undead. I felt sure those big square Puritan churches on the town green would be helpless in the face of a European vampire. A little witch burning was more in their line--something limited to the neighbors.

It touched me to be trusted with something terrible.

It was a paradise of learning, and I prayed for eventual admission.

It was good to walk into a library again; it smelled like home.

It was not the brutality of what occurred next that changed my mind and brought home to me the full meaning of fear. It was the brilliance of it.

It was strange, I reflected.. that even in the weirdest circumstances, the most troubling episodes of one's life, the greatest divides from home and familiarity, there were these moments of undeniable joy.

I've always been interested in foreign relations. It's my belief that study of history should be our preparation for understanding the present rather than an escape from it.

I've noticed Dracula was often as practical a fellow as he was a nasty one.

I've read there is no such thing as a single tear, that old poetic trope. And perhaps there isn't, since hers was simply a companion to my own.

I wondered why she craved this knowledge and found myself remembering that she was, after all, an anthropologist.

Never before had I known the sudden quiver of understanding that travels from word to brain to heart, the way a new language can move, coil, swim into life under the eyes, the almost savage leap of comprehension, the instantaneous, joyful release of meaning, the way the words shed their printed bodies in a flash of heat and light.

Recently abandoned women can be complicated.

These are works of history about your century, the twentieth. A fine century-I look forward to the rest of it.

These atheist cultures were certainly diligent in preserving the relics of their saints.

The thing that most haunted me that day, however...was the fact that these things had - apparently - actually occurred...For all his attention to my historical education, my father had neglected to tell me this: history's terrible moments were real. I understand now, decades later, that he could never have told me. Only history itself can convince you of such a truth. And once you've seen that truth - really seen it - you can't look away.

The very worst impulses of humankind can survive generations, centuries, even millennia. And the best of our individual efforts can die with us at the end of a single lifetime.

Today I will go to wait for her again, because I cannot help it, because my whole being seems now to be bound up in the being of one so different from myself and yet so exquisitely familiar that I can scarely understand what has happened.

We Gypsies know that where Jews are killed, Gypsies are always murthered too. And then a lot of other people, usually.

When you handle books all day long, every new one is a friend and a temptation.

You are a total stranger and you want to take my library book.