Quotations about   narrative

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A person, an individual being, has a thousand ways of conveying his feelings and thoughts. He is riches without end, he is a world in which we can always discover something new. A crowd, on the other hand, reduces the individuality of the person; a man in a crowd limits himself to a few forms of elementary behavior. The forms through which a crowd can express its yearnings are extraordinarily meager and continually repeat themselves: the demonstration, the strike, the rally, the barricades. That is why you can write a novel about a man, but about a crowd — never.

Ryszard Kapuściński (1932-2007) Polish journalist, photographer, poet, author
Shah of Shahs, Part 3 “The Dead Flame” (1982)
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Added on 20-Jul-21 | Last updated 20-Jul-21
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“Inevitability” is a magic word with which to mesmerize the unwary. Only death is inevitable. Short of that, nothing is inevitable until it happens, and everything is inevitable once it has happened. The historian deals with past events and therefore to him all history is inevitable. But these past events were once in the future, and then they were not inevitable.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“War by Time-Table,” War by Time-Table: How the First World War Began (1969)
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See also Taylor.
Added on 19-Jul-21 | Last updated 19-Jul-21
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The whole truth would be an infinite concatenation of mostly irrelevant facts, with an occasional dose of, in textspeak, “TMI,” too much information — when, for example, you ruin the case you were making against factory farming by going into such detail about how painful de-beaking is for chickens that your listener shuts you out and struggles to think about something else. So we do not tell the whole truth; we tell carefully crafted stories, and we do this even when our moral purpose is to tell the truth.

Justin E. H. Smith (b. 1972) American-Canadian professor of history and philosophy of science
Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason, ch. 8 (2019)
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Added on 25-Jun-21 | Last updated 25-Jun-21
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History is not another name for the past, as many people imply. It is the name for stories about the past.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Jun-21 | Last updated 14-Jun-21
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Nobody knows what is going to happen because so much depends on an enormous number of variables, on simple hazard. On the other hand if you look at history retrospectively, then, even though it was contingent, you can tell a story that makes sense. … Jewish history, for example, in fact had its ups and downs, its, enmities and its friendships, as every history of all people has. The notion that there is one unilinear history is of course false. But if you look at it after the experience of Auschwitz it looks as though all of history — or at least history since the Middle Ages — had no other aim than Auschwitz. … This, is the real problem of every philosophy of history how: is it possible that in retrospect it always looks as though it couldn’t have happened otherwise?

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
Interview with Roger Errera (Oct 1973), The New York Review of Books (26 Oct 1978)
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Added on 28-Jan-21 | Last updated 28-Jan-21
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We are each the star of our own situation comedy, and, with luck, the screwball friend in someone else’s.

Robert Brault (b. c. 1945) American aphorist, programmer
(Attributed)
Added on 29-Sep-20 | Last updated 29-Sep-20
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I have regarded you, not as a novelist, but as an historian; for it is my considered opinion, unshaken at 85, that records of fact are not history. They are only annals, which cannot become historical until the artist-poet-philosopher rescues them from the unintelligible chaos of their actual occurrence and arranges them in works of art.

When people ask me what has happened in my long lifetime I do not refer them to the newspaper files and to the authorities, but to your novels. They object that the people in your books never existed; that their deeds were never done and their sayings never uttered. I assure them that they were, except that Upton Sinclair individualized and expressed them better than they could have done, and arranged their experiences, which as they actually occurred were as unintelligible as pied type, in significant and intelligible order.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Letter to Upton Sinclair (12 Dec 1941)
Added on 24-Sep-20 | Last updated 24-Sep-20
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If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
(Attributed)
Added on 17-Apr-20 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.

Jean-Luc Godard (b. 1930) French-Swiss film director, screenwriter, critic
(Attributed)
Added on 11-Mar-20 | Last updated 11-Mar-20
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ADVICE TO PERSONS ABOUT TO WRITE HISTORY — DON’T.

In the Moral Sciences Prejudice is Dishonesty.

A Historian has to fight against temptations special to his mode of life, temptations from Country, Class, Church, College, Party, Authority of talents, solicitation of friends.

The most respectable of these influences are the most dangerous.

The historian who neglects to root them out is exactly like a juror who votes according to his personal likes or dislikes.

In judging men and things Ethics go before Dogma, Politics or Nationality.

The Ethics of History cannot be denominational.

Judge not according to the orthodox standard of a system religious, philosophical, political, but according as things promote, or fail to promote the delicacy, integrity, and authority of Conscience.

Put conscience above both system and success.

History provides neither compensation for suffering nor penalties for wrong.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
Letter to Bp. Mandell Creighton, Postscript (3 Apr 1887)
Added on 4-Feb-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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The present, as historians well know, re-creates the past. This is partly because, once we know how things have come out, we tend to rewrite the past in terms of historical inevitability.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Historian as Participant,” Daedalus (Spring 1971)
Added on 18-Feb-11 | Last updated 18-Dec-19
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