Thursday, November 17, 2011

Johan Huizinga on History

I'm listening to David Brooks's The Social Animal (quite fun), and he throws in this quote from the great Dutch historian Johan Huizinga about the feeling he received from engaging history:

A feeling of immediate contact with the past is a sensation as deep as the present enjoyment of art; it is an almost ecstatic sensation of no longer being myself, of overflowing into the world around me, of touching the essence of things, of through history experiencing the truth.

In my own modest way, I understand what Huizinga says. The stories of history often engross me, and they have since I was a little guy. Not just "what happened?" but more a matter of "what's going on here?", something deeper than--although dependent on--narrative. Perhaps call it narrative plus. I think great novelists can capture it, and I suspect that great novelists and great historians have much in common (hat tip to John Lukacs). Anyway, an interesting quote (found @ p. 233 of Brooks book).

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