May 11th, 2009


tolstoy on historians

Historians are like deaf people who go on answering questions that no one has asked them. ~Leo Tolstoy

But then, he wrote a novel that's more or less about the formation of history (I think--it's been a while since I've read War and Peace, so I could be mistaken), so I'm not sure if that means he's including himself in that simile. It does strike me as odd, sometimes, all the effort that's put into piecing together the habits and customs and ridiculous little details of people long dead, but I suppose you can treat it as a quest to understand ourselves better by understanding those who came before us and how things got the way they are now.

Tolstoy's being unfair, I think, as people often are when they make such sweeping generalizations.