Culture, Identity

Y.L Peretz: Vegn geshikhte/On History

(translated from the Yiddish by Sol Liptzin)
A Jew of my acquaintance sat down near me in a Warsaw park and asked me why I was so sad.
Graetz is dead,” I answered.
“God’s will!” said my acquaintance. “One of our townsfolk, I suppose?”
This question, which 90 percent of the Jews would have asked in his place, is a measure of the abyss into which  we have fallen…
When I informed my neighbor that Graetz was an historian who wrote the history of the Jewish people, he commented:
“Oh, history!” His voice had the same ring as if he were told that somebody had just eaten a dozen hard-boiled eggs at one time.
Just as I was about to get angry, he continued very naively:
“And what’s the use of history?”

4 thoughts on “Y.L Peretz: Vegn geshikhte/On History

  1. Three Replies:
    First:
    Reading about the death of Graetz, and then about the Palmer Raids, made me thing of Gustav Landauer of all people. And then of something I read in ANARCHY IN ACTION, by Colin Ward. I must admit that, not having the book [it is worth having handy, but so it goes]I found the quote elsewhere:
    He was beloved not for any essential ability but for those unforgettable digressions of his, when he would remove his glasses to beam at the past while massaging the lenses of the present. Nostalgic excursions in broken English. Autobiographical tidbits. How Pnin came to the Soedinyonnie Shtati (the United States). “Examination on ship before landing. Very well! ‘Nothing to declare?’ ‘Nothing.’ Very well! Then political questions. He asks: ‘Are you anarchist?’ I answer”–time out on the part of the narrator for a spell of cozy mute mirth–“‘First what do we understand under “Anarchism”? Anarchism practical, metaphysical, theoretical, mystical, abstractical, individual, social? When I was young,’ I say, ‘all this had for me signification.’ So we had a very interesting discussion, in consequence of which I passed two whole weeks on Ellis Island”–abdomen beginning to heave; heaving; narrator convulsed.
    — Nabokov, Pnin
    {source: http://www.rakesprogress.com/rakes_progress/2004/05/when_snappy_ans.html }
    Second:
    And then I remembered somethign else, something I had read long ago:
    “You all remember,” said the Controller, in his strong deep voice, “you all remember, I suppose, that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford’s: History is bunk. History,” he repeated slowly, “is bunk.”
    He waved his hand; and it was as though, with an invisible feather whisk, he brushed away a little dust, and the dust was Harappa, was Ur of the Chaldees; some spider-webs, and they were Thebes and Babylon and Cnossos and Mycenae. Whisk. Whisk – and where was Odysseus, where was Job, where were Jupiter and Gotama and Jesus? Whisk – and those specks of antique dirt called Athens and Rome, Jerusalem and the Middle Kingdom – all were gone. Whisk – the place where Italy had been was empty. Whisk, the cathedrals; whisk, whisk King Lear and the Thoughts of Pascal. Whisk, Passion; whisk, Requiem; whisk, Symphony; whisk . . . . “That’s why you’re taught no history,” the Controller was saying.
    -Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
    { source: http://www.mindspring.com/~phila1/ }
    Third:
    And as I found this, I also found something else:
    “An article on LRC today mentions the of Mother of All Misrepresented Quotes, Henry Ford’s `History is bunk.’ I want to expand on that. A fuller quote is, `History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.’ -1916.
    — from “Henry Ford’s “History is Bunk” is Bunk/Ford an Anarchist?”
    { source: http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/009342.html }

  2. Hmph: “We don’t want traditon[…] and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”
    So in addition to being an anti-semite, his principles were diametrically opposed to more or less everything we hold dear?
    Cute.

  3. Hmph: “We don’t want tradition[…] and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”
    So in addition to being an anti-semite, his principles were diametrically opposed to more or less everything we hold dear?
    Cute.

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