A Retelling of Life

My Afternoon with The Historian

On a fine Sunday morning, I woke up feeling refreshed and eager to start a day of “getting my life in order”.  I had papers to file, a closet to organize and a host of errands to schedule.   But fate had other plans for me, it seemed.

When the power went out as it does in this part of the world every so often, I felt a little dejected.  I really was bent on being productive.  Fortunately, the feeling left me as soon as I chanced a look on “The Historian”.  I had been planning to read it for weeks since I discovered it at our local Book sale but work and life and my Kindle supply of  free e-books had gotten in way.

It’s now 4:30 pm and I have been to Bulgaria, Romania and back.  I cannot wait to plan a trip to Eastern Europe.   The Historian reads part history and part travel book, a sumptuous read that satisfies the adventurer in me. An  enthralling and thrilling investigative journey into the life of Vlad the Impaler, I found myself at once scared and excited to get to know the fates of  Paul, Helen, Elena, and the many characters Elizabeth Kostova so cleverly conjured.

Not since the Life of Pi have I read a book that I have fallen in love with.  The melding of history, dracula folklore and church tradition in one novel is a feat in itself.  I am disturbed by the capacity for cruelty of our race but I am comforted by the truth, that it is in the face of cruelty that heroes are born.

“History has taught us that the nature of man is evil, sublimely so. Good is not perfectible, but evil is. Why should you not use your great mind in service of what is perfectible? … There is no purity like the purity of the sufferings of history. You will have what every historian wants: history will be reality to you. We will wash our minds clean with blood”

“For all his attention to my historical education, my father had neglected to tell me that history’s terrible moments were real.  I understand now, decades later, that he  could have never told me.  Only history itself can convince you of the truth.  And once you’ve seen the truth — really seen it — you can’t look away.”

“Today I will go to wait for her again, because I cannot help it, because my whole being seems now to be bound up in the being of one so different from myself and yet so exquisitely familiar that I can scarely understand what has happened.”

“I’ve always been interested in foreign relations. It’s my belief that study of history should be our preparation for understanding the present rather than an escape from it.”

Indeed, history is a great teacher.  Thank you for a wonderful afternoon of learning, Ms. Elizabeth Kostova.

Dark brown book cover saying "The HISTORIAN"; then "A Novel" in a shiny gold stripe, then "ELIZABETH KOSTOVA". A few thin reddish streaks stretch from the top almost to the bottom.

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