Saturday, July 8, 2023

#189 / Nostalgia: The Ominous Past


Pictured is Georgi Gospodinov, author of Time Shelter. Gospodinov's novel won the 2023 International Booker Prize (among other prizes). Below, I am providing a quick excerpt from a New York Times article, discussing the book. In the hard copy version, The Time's article is titled, "The Past Beckons, Ominously."
When the Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov was writing the novel “Time Shelter,” in 2019, he agonized over a scene he thought might be over the top, even for a work of absurdist fiction.

In the novel, a wave of nostalgia leads several European countries to organize large-scale re-enactments of past events, and Gospodinov was unsure about a section in which a country recreates World War II and invades its neighbor, causing widespread devastation.

“I thought maybe I should have skipped it, it’s too much,” he recently recalled in an interview in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. “But then it happened in February of last year,” when Russia invaded Ukraine.
The message of Gospodinov's book, apparently, is that we should not be trying to live in the past. But what about the future? I continue to be convinced by Hannah Arendt's discussion in her wonderful book, Between Past And Future. Arendt says that the past is always pushing us forward, but that the future repels us, driving us back. If the past is "ominous," the future, it seems, is even more so. Such is the dynamic of nostalgia.
It is Arendt's analysis that we fully understand that the momentum of the past impels us forward, and that the future we can see coming, ahead, repels us. We know that neither the past nor the future are hospitable. What we would actually like to do, Arendt says, is to jump out of the historical timeline in which our lives are embedded, and just "observe." We could be "referees," not participants.

Alas (as we actually all know), we can't do that. There is no "time shelter," and George Fox, the first Quaker, continues to say it best: 

You have no time but this present time; therefore prize your time for your soul's sake.
How about this thought? If both the past and the future are "ominous," it is in this present time, our time, the time we have "right now," that joy will be found.
This is a kind of "scholarly" way of pointing out how grateful we should be for the inestimable gift of life. No regrets. No "ominous" future. Just the joy of being alive.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!