History & Trauma ~ Civilization & Its Discontents


“I shall not recapitulate the disasters of the Alexandrian library,” Edward Gibbon writes in the fifty-first chapter of the The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The historian resolves, with these words, to remain silent about that which distinguishes the Alexandrian library above all else: its “disasters.” But it would be rash to conclude the Gibbon, therefore, simply fails to address the calamities that he so clearly avoids. With the characteristic double gesture of disavowal, he at once invokes and distances them. His discussion of the institution and posterity of the library cannot but call to mind the destructions that he passes over in silence; it frames, without recounting, the very “disasters” that it will not “recapitulate.” –Daniel Heller-Roazen


What, me worry? –Alfred E. Newman

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