Saturday, October 22, 2005


Secret underground forces or trivial causes? A thousand little causes, but the given of a problematic situation.
- Musil, draft for the essay The German as Symptom, 1923
This is how history looks from close up; you don't see anything. Of course someone will object that we are standing too close. But it is a metaphor, taken from the visual realm; one can be too close to an object to apprehend it fully. But can one be too close to understanding something to be able to grasp it? The analogy does not hold. Surely our knowledge suffices for us to form a judgement about present and recent events, and in any case we know more about them than later generations will. Following another of its roots, this metaphor would portray us as still too involved. But were we really involved at all?
- Musil, Helpless Europe, 1922

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