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If literary fiction's pronounced turn toward history is in part what defines the novel after postmodernism's grip has slackened, then both the shape of that turn and its historical imagination are of paramount importance to scholars of contemporary literature. With this in mind, this investigation takes up a literary phenomenon centrally invested in the very near-term process of making historical memory, arguing that, amidst contemporary fiction's fascination with history, a new literary sub-genre has taken root: the recent historical novel.
Though it goes without saying that fiction set in the recent historical past has been written since long before the turn of the twenty-first century, in the last two decades an array of novels has coalesced around a set of increasingly common conventions that demand scholarly attention. Diverse as this incomplete and ever-growing list is, its works all share a common temporal setting: the very recent past.
Though Walter Scott first imagined the historical novel in English as a tale "of the last generation" — defined concisely by Waverley 's subtitle, 'Tis Sixty Years Since — these historical novels all take place less than a dozen years in the past. Despite the pronounced pastness of their settings, these novels are not — and cannot be — "period pieces," as the historical events that structure them have not yet congealed into a coherent and legible period. By contrast, these works occupy a historiographical middle distance between event and period, specific date and stylized decade: after Kent State but before "the Seventies," between Iran-Contra and "Eighties Style.
Simpson , represent "a shift back two, three, or four decades, into the youth of the writers themselves," thriving not only on the "evocation of a vanished era," but also on the tension "between nostalgia All that said, thus far the above novels have been mistaken less often for historical fiction than they have for works of contemporary realism, set in the present alongside "current events. Subject to this inevitable lag time, isn't every work of realist fiction save the speculative relegated to a kind of recent history?
Perhaps, but there are few people more attuned to the vicissitudes of the publishing process and the strategies one might use to circumvent them than novelists themselves. This is why so many writers of contemporary realism are loath to include specific dates and names whether of celebrities, or brands, or songs on the radio and why so many historical novelists love to: these details place a novel in time. Scott himself, in an attempt to distinguish Waverley from what he called a "Tale of the Times," wrote that the latter is not so much a historical portrait as "a dashing sketch of the fashionable world, a few anecdotes of private scandal thinly veiled " 34, emphasis added.
A novel set in the present, in other words, must always be set in the indefinite present, its details legible enough to be contemporary, "veiled" enough to avoid becoming antiquated prematurely. Scott, on the other hand, is committed to "fixing In an attempt to outline the rough contours of this genre, this investigation draws on three contemporary novels all set in the very near past: Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station and , and Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being Grounded in catastrophe, mediated by the news, and marked by a particularly ambivalent politics, these novels reveal not only the contradictions at the heart of contemporary historical consciousness, but also the crucial blind spots in literary criticism's approach to narratives of the past.
They have emerged from what Linda Hutcheon called "historiographic metafiction" in , what Jameson himself called "postmodern 'nostalgia' art" in , and what Amy Elias called "metahistorical romance" in — yet are distinct from all three. By fictionalizing the crises of recent history before they become fully historical, the genre represents both an acceleration of the novel's historical imagination and a decelerating double take at the modern news cycle.
In this way, the recent historical novel stands as the paradigmatic form of historical fiction in the age of CNN. Amidst contemporary journalism's nearly constant proliferation of events and contemporary literature's decisive turn toward history, recent historical fiction reasserts the novel's relevance while at the same time profiting from the prestige of historicity. It affords its readers the pleasure of witnessing as the events of their lives become literature, history.
Yet it also threatens — far more than traditional historical fiction — to foreclose possibilities for the future, as that very pleasure is derived from a kind of teleology of the present. Though its climaxes are drawn from the crises that mark the contemporary, its denouements deliver only what was and what is. Nevertheless, the recent historical novel appears as a significant genre of contemporary fiction, not only because of its recent and rapid rise, but also due to the temporal deixis that lies at the heart of both the genre and the contemporary itself.
Jameson has criticized the contemporary historical novel for conjuring the past by way of "stylistic connotation, a new connotation of 'pastness' and pseudohistorical depth, in which the history of aesthetic styles displaces 'real' history. Instead, it declares its pastness by attaching itself to particular historical events.
In this way, we can describe a work of historical fiction as taking place in some amorphous "Sixties," while the recent historical's dependence on the event will always fix it precisely on this or that day, in this or that year. It is Ben Lerner's narration of the Madrid train bombings that sets Leaving the Atocha Station — his debut novel about a young American poet on a fellowship in Spain — firmly in the months leading up to, and just after, March Similarly, Lerner's novel — about another young writer, in this case trying to make good on an outlandish second-book advance — would likely be mistaken for a narrative set in the present, were it not for the twin Hurricanes, Irene and Sandy, that bookend the novel, setting it squarely between and The same can be said about Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being , divided as it is into alternating chapters between the diary of a Japanese teenager named Naoko and a novelist named Ruth who finds Naoko's diary on a beach in Canada, believing it to have washed up after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
Early on in , Lerner's narrator describes the feel of New York City as it prepares for the fast-approaching Hurricane Irene, writing that it was "something like the feel of a childhood snow day For the reader, however, something like the opposite effect occurs. The storm's nonfictional, precisely datable, eventness cements rather than "defeat[s]" historical time in the novel. Had Lerner rendered the hurricane as a thinly-veiled fictional version of Irene, the novel might be read as set in a kind of amorphous present, "in the time of superstorms.
This commitment to the nonfictional event is at the heart of Lerner's work, and he has made that commitment explicit in interviews, declaring that fiction should not be understood as "an escape from reality but that fiction is a technology for making contact with reality. I just threw away half [of it]. In this way, the hybrid genre of recent historical fiction benefits from an exchange of cultural capital between its constituent parts.
In the context of "the pervasive recasting of the literary field around the past," the work gains prestige from being historical just as it gains relevance from being recent. This move furnishes the novels with a certain authenticity, despite the fact that — or, perhaps, because — it threatens their very fictionality. Early on in , just after the episode depicting Hurricane Irene, Lerner reprints the iconic Paul Klee image from Walter Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History," with the caption: "The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned" As the pun makes all too clear, it is Lerner's own storm — his fictionalization of Hurricane Irene — that propels his novel into contact with history as well as philosophies like Benjamin's.
Moreover, just as the work is elevated by its contact with capital-H history, the events narrated within gain currency as history by virtue of their being featured in a historical novel: a phenomenon, discussed above, that reveals the genre's agency not only to represent, but also to amend the historical record in fiction. Here contemporary fiction functions as both a currency by which historicity is measured, and the process through which it accrues. As these examples also make clear, the events that define recent historical fiction are almost always catastrophic: natural disasters, terrorist attacks, political assassinations and violent revolutions.
The narrator of Leaving the Atocha Station wanders through the streets of Madrid for about a hundred pages, "until I arrived at what they call a scene of mayhem" Moreover, and as the etymology of the term catastrophe suggests, these disasters often represent the structural climax of the novels in which they appear. At one point in , Lerner's narrator — a thinly fictionalized version of himself — gives a lecture about how he came to become a writer: "In the story I've been telling myself lately, I became a poet, or became interested in becoming a poet, on January twenty-eighth, Like most Americans who were alive at that time, I have a clear memory of watching the space shuttle Challenger disintegrate seventy-three seconds into flight" For him the decisive moment was not the explosion of the Challenger but Ronald Reagan's presidential address, written by speechwriter Peggy Noonan, later that evening:.
The way they used poetic language to integrate a terrible event and its image back into a framework of meaning The call to write and the character of that writing is marked by a shared experience of disaster. Cataclysm is what allows the novelist, critic, historian, and reader to mark the passage of historical time. In the Bildungsroman , the key events of a character's youth are often colored by a narrator's mature retrospection. In the detective novel, the central crime is almost always narrated in the criminal's vernacular of confession or the investigator's vernacular of detection.
Likewise, in recent historical fiction, the news and its narratives mediate the novel's most significant moments. Ozeki's novel includes several lengthy passages describing the destruction in Japan, narrated not through the character of Naoko, who lives there and is perhaps present at the disaster, but the character of Ruth, who watches from her computer screen thousands of miles away: "Every few hours, another horrifying piece of footage would break, and she would play it over and over, studying the wave as it surged over the tops of the seawalls, carrying ships down city streets, picking up cars and trucks and depositing them on the roofs of buildings" As Hurricane Irene bears down on New York, Lerner writes that "[f]rom a million media, most of them handheld, awareness of the storm seeped into the city, entering the architecture and Here Lerner's style is particularly reminiscent of Don DeLillo's White Noise and its fascination with mediations of disaster and Baudrillardian simulacra — the latter a favorite preoccupation of postmodern fiction and the postmodern historical novel in particular.
Yet while postmodern histories approach mediation most often with a sense of curiosity, sublimity, or playfulness, contemporary novelists like Ozeki and Lerner engage it with what we might call a new sincerity. As it has been described by Adam Kelly, the New Sincerity in literature is both a rejection and an extension of postmodern styles — a literary teenager that, for all its rebellion, cannot fully escape the family resemblance. All that said, for Lerner and Ozeki, a sincere belief in the novel's capacity to mediate history is not necessarily a positive thing.
Whereas the postmodern historical novel used fiction to trouble the concept of mediation, the recent historical novel seems altogether troubled by it. Indeed, what Lerner's and Ozeki's novels are narrating in passages like these is the contemporary phenomenon — not of news mediating experience — but of news constituting experience entirely. Yet what was once cause for DeLillo's bemusement and Pynchon's jest now occasions sincere dismay.
After the bombs go off in Madrid, Lerner's narrator writes: "I considered walking back to Atocha, but instead I opened El Pais in another window and the Guardian in a third. I sat smoking and refreshing the home pages and watching the numbers change. I could feel the newspaper accounts modifying or replacing my memory of what I'd seen; was there a word for that feeling? We find Ozeki's narrator similarly troubled, as she laments how coverage all too quickly moves on from Fukushima to an uprising in Libya and a tornado in Missouri: "What is the half-life of information?
Does its rate of decay correlate with the medium that conveys it? Does [it] correlate with the decay of our attention? Is the Internet a kind of temporal gyre, sucking up stories, like geodrift, into its orbit? What is its gyre memory? The spell of royalty is broken, but it has not been succeeded by the majesty of the laws; the people has learned to despise all authority, but fear now extorts a larger tribute of obedience than that which was formerly paid by reverence and by love.
I perceive that we have destroyed those independent beings which were able to cope with tyranny single-handed; but it is the Government that has inherited the privileges of which families, corporations, and individuals have been deprived; the weakness of the whole community has therefore succeeded that influence of a small body of citizens, which, if it was sometimes oppressive, was often conservative. The division of property has lessened the distance which separated the rich from the poor; but it would seem that the nearer they draw to each other, the greater is their mutual hatred, and the more vehement the envy and the dread with which they resist each other's claims to power; the notion of Right is alike insensible to both classes, and Force affords to both the only argument for the present, and the only guarantee for the future.
The poor man retains the prejudices of his forefathers without their faith, and their ignorance without their virtues; he has adopted the doctrine of self-interest as the rule of his actions, without understanding the science which controls it, and his egotism is no less blind than his devotedness was formerly. If society is tranquil, it is not because it relies upon its strength and its well-being, but because it knows its weakness and its infirmities; a single effort may cost it its life; everybody feels the evil, but no one has courage or energy enough to seek the cure; the desires, the regret, the sorrows, and the joys of the time produce nothing that is visible or permanent, like the passions of old men which terminate in impotence.
We have, then, abandoned whatever advantages the old state of things afforded, without receiving any compensation from our present condition; we have destroyed an aristocracy, and we seem inclined to survey its ruins with complacency, and to fix our abode in the midst of them. The phenomena which the intellectual world presents are not less deplorable. The democracy of France, checked in its course or abandoned to its lawless passions, has overthrown whatever crossed its path, and has shaken all that it has not destroyed.
Its empire on society has not been gradually introduced or peaceably established, but it has constantly advanced in the midst of disorder and the agitation of a conflict. In the heat of the struggle each partisan is hurried beyond the limits of his opinions by the opinions and the excesses of his opponents, until he loses sight of the end of his exertions, and holds a language which disguises his real sentiments or secret instincts. Hence arises the strange confusion which we are witnessing.
I cannot recall to my mind a passage in history more worthy of sorrow and of pity than the scenes which are happening under our eyes; it is as if the natural bond which unites the opinions of man to his tastes and his actions to his principles was now broken; the sympathy which has always been acknowledged between the feelings and the ideas of mankind appears to be dissolved, and all the laws of moral analogy to be abolished.
Zealous Christians may be found amongst us whose minds are nurtured in the love and knowledge of a future life, and who readily espouse the cause of human liberty as the source of all moral greatness. Christianity, which has declared that all men are equal in the sight of God, will not refuse to acknowledge that all citizens are equal in the eye of the law.
But, by a singular concourse of events, religion is entangled in those institutions which democracy assails, and it is not unfrequently brought to reject the equality it loves, and to curse that cause of liberty as a foe which it might hallow by its alliance. By the side of these religious men I discern others whose looks are turned to the earth more than to Heaven; they are the partisans of liberty, not only as the source of the noblest virtues, but more especially as the root of all solid advantages; and they sincerely desire to extend its sway, and to impart its blessings to mankind.
It is natural that they should hasten to invoke the assistance of religion, for they must know that liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith; but they have seen religion in the ranks of their adversaries, and they inquire no further; some of them attack it openly, and the remainder are afraid to defend it. In former ages slavery has been advocated by the venal and slavish-minded, whilst the independent and the warm-hearted were struggling without hope to save the liberties of mankind. But men of high and generous characters are now to be met with, whose opinions are at variance with their inclinations, and who praise that servility which they have themselves never known.
Others, on the contrary, speak in the name of liberty, as if they were able to feel its sanctity and its majesty, and loudly claim for humanity those rights which they have always disowned. There are virtuous and peaceful individuals whose pure morality, quiet habits, affluence, and talents fit them to be the leaders of the surrounding population; their love of their country is sincere, and they are prepared to make the greatest sacrifices to its welfare, but they confound the abuses of civilization with its benefits, and the idea of evil is inseparable in their minds from that of novelty.
Not far from this class is another party, whose object is to materialize mankind, to hit upon what is expedient without heeding what is just, to acquire knowledge without faith, and prosperity apart from virtue; assuming the title of the champions of modern civilization, and placing themselves in a station which they usurp with insolence, and from which they are driven by their own unworthiness.
Where are we then? The religionists are the enemies of liberty, and the friends of liberty attack religion; the high-minded and the noble advocate subjection, and the meanest and most servile minds preach independence; honest and enlightened citizens are opposed to all progress, whilst men without patriotism and without principles are the apostles of civilization and of intelligence. Has such been the fate of the centuries which have preceded our own? I cannot, however, believe that the Creator made man to leave him in an endless struggle with the intellectual miseries which surround us: God destines a calmer and a more certain future to the communities of Europe; I am unacquainted with His designs, but I shall not cease to believe in them because I cannot fathom them, and I had rather mistrust my own capacity than His justice.
There is a country in the world where the great revolution which I am speaking of seems nearly to have reached its natural limits; it has been effected with ease and simplicity, say rather that this country has attained the consequences of the democratic revolution which we are undergoing without having experienced the revolution itself. The emigrants who fixed themselves on the shores of America in the beginning of the seventeenth century severed the democratic principle from all the principles which repressed it in the old communities of Europe, and transplanted it unalloyed to the New World.
It has there been allowed to spread in perfect freedom, and to put forth its consequences in the laws by influencing the manners of the country. It appears to me beyond a doubt that sooner or later we shall arrive, like the Americans, at an almost complete equality of conditions.
But I do not conclude from this that we shall ever be necessarily led to draw the same political consequences which the Americans have derived from a similar social organization. I am far from supposing that they have chosen the only form of government which a democracy may adopt; but the identity of the efficient cause of laws and manners in the two countries is sufficient to account for the immense interest we have in becoming acquainted with its effects in each of them.
It is not, then, merely to satisfy a legitimate curiosity that I have examined America; my wish has been to find instruction by which we may ourselves profit. Whoever should imagine that I have intended to write a panegyric will perceive that such was not my design; nor has it been my object to advocate any form of government in particular, for I am of opinion that absolute excellence is rarely to be found in any legislation; I have not even affected to discuss whether the social revolution, which I believe to be irresistible, is advantageous or prejudicial to mankind; I have acknowledged this revolution as a fact already accomplished or on the eve of its accomplishment; and I have selected the nation, from amongst those which have undergone it, in which its development has been the most peaceful and the most complete, in order to discern its natural consequences, and, if it be possible, to distinguish the means by which it may be rendered profitable.
I confess that in America I saw more than America; I sought the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or to hope from its progress. In the first part of this work I have attempted to show the tendency given to the laws by the democracy of America, which is abandoned almost without restraint to its instinctive propensities, and to exhibit the course it prescribes to the Government and the influence it exercises on affairs.
I have sought to discover the evils and the advantages which it produces. I have examined the precautions used by the Americans to direct it, as well as those which they have not adopted, and I have undertaken to point out the causes which enable it to govern society. I do not know whether I have succeeded in making known what I saw in America, but I am certain that such has been my sincere desire, and that I have never, knowingly, moulded facts to ideas, instead of ideas to facts. Whenever a point could be established by the aid of written documents, I have had recourse to the original text, and to the most authentic and approved works.
I have cited my authorities in the notes, and anyone may refer to them. Whenever an opinion, a political custom, or a remark on the manners of the country was concerned, I endeavored to consult the most enlightened men I met with. If the point in question was important or doubtful, I was not satisfied with one testimony, but I formed my opinion on the evidence of several witnesses. Here the reader must necessarily believe me upon my word.
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I could frequently have quoted names which are either known to him, or which deserve to be so, in proof of what I advance; but I have carefully abstained from this practice. A stranger frequently hears important truths at the fire-side of his host, which the latter would perhaps conceal from the ear of friendship; he consoles himself with his guest for the silence to which he is restricted, and the shortness of the traveller's stay takes away all fear of his indiscretion. I carefully noted every conversation of this nature as soon as it occurred, but these notes will never leave my writing-case; I had rather injure the success of my statements than add my name to the list of those strangers who repay the generous hospitality they have received by subsequent chagrin and annoyance.
I am aware that, notwithstanding my care, nothing will be easier than to criticise this book, if anyone ever chooses to criticise it. Those readers who may examine it closely will discover the fundamental idea which connects the several parts together. But the diversity of the subjects I have had to treat is exceedingly great, and it will not be difficult to oppose an isolated fact to the body of facts which I quote, or an isolated idea to the body of ideas I put forth.
I hope to be read in the spirit which has guided my labors, and that my book may be judged by the general impression it leaves, as I have formed my own judgment not on any single reason, but upon the mass of evidence. It must not be forgotten that the author who wishes to be understood is obliged to push all his ideas to their utmost theoretical consequences, and often to the verge of what is false or impracticable; for if it be necessary sometimes to quit the rules of logic in active life, such is not the case in discourse, and a man finds that almost as many difficulties spring from inconsistency of language as usually arise from inconsistency of conduct.
I conclude by pointing out myself what many readers will consider the principal defect of the work. This book is written to favor no particular views, and in composing it I have entertained no designs of serving or attacking any party; I have undertaken not to see differently, but to look further than parties, and whilst they are busied for the morrow I have turned my thoughts to the Future. North America divided into two vast regions, one inclining towards the Pole, the other towards the Equator—Valley of the Mississippi—Traces of the Revolutions of the Globe—Shore of the Atlantic Ocean where the English Colonies were founded—Difference in the appearance of North and of South America at the time of their Discovery—Forests of North America—Prairies—Wandering Tribes of Natives—Their outward appearance, manners, and language—Traces of an unknown people.
North America presents in its external form certain general features which it is easy to discriminate at the first glance. A sort of methodical order seems to have regulated the separation of land and water, mountains and valleys. A simple, but grand, arrangement is discoverable amidst the confusion of objects and the prodigious variety of scenes. This continent is divided, almost equally, into two vast regions, one of which is bounded on the north by the Arctic Pole, and by the two great oceans on the east and west. It stretches towards the south, forming a triangle whose irregular sides meet at length below the great lakes of Canada.
The second region begins where the other terminates, and includes all the remainder of the continent. The one slopes gently towards the Pole, the other towards the Equator. The territory comprehended in the first region descends towards the north with so imperceptible a slope that it may almost be said to form a level plain. Within the bounds of this immense tract of country there are neither high mountains nor deep valleys. Streams meander through it irregularly: great rivers mix their currents, separate and meet again, disperse and form vast marshes, losing all trace of their channels in the labyrinth of waters they have themselves created; and thus, at length, after innumerable windings, fall into the Polar Seas.
The great lakes which bound this first region are not walled in, like most of those in the Old World, between hills and rocks. Their banks are flat, and rise but a few feet above the level of their waters; each of them thus forming a vast bowl filled to the brim. The slightest change in the structure of the globe would cause their waters to rush either towards the Pole or to the tropical sea.
The second region is more varied on its surface, and better suited for the habitation of man. Two long chains of mountains divide it from one extreme to the other; the Alleghany ridge takes the form of the shores of the Atlantic Ocean; the other is parallel with the Pacific. The space which lies between these two chains of mountains contains 1,, square miles. This vast territory, however, forms a single valley, one side of which descends gradually from the rounded summits of the Alleghanies, while the other rises in an uninterrupted course towards the tops of the Rocky Mountains.
At the bottom of the valley flows an immense river, into which the various streams issuing from the mountains fall from all parts. In memory of their native land, the French formerly called this river the St. The Indians, in their pompous language, have named it the Father of Waters, or the Mississippi. The Mississippi takes its source above the limit of the two great regions of which I have spoken, not far from the highest point of the table-land where they unite.
The course of the Mississippi is at first dubious: it winds several times towards the north, from whence it rose; and at length, after having been delayed in lakes and marshes, it flows slowly onwards to the south. Sometimes quietly gliding along the argillaceous bed which nature has assigned to it, sometimes swollen by storms, the Mississippi waters 2, miles in its course.
Fifty-seven large navigable rivers contribute to swell the waters of the Mississippi; amongst others, the Missouri, which traverses a space of 2, miles; the Arkansas of 1, miles, the Red River 1, miles, four whose course is from to 1, miles in length, viz. Peter's, the St. Francis, and the Moingona; besides a countless multitude of rivulets which unite from all parts their tributary streams. The valley which is watered by the Mississippi seems formed to be the bed of this mighty river, which, like a god of antiquity, dispenses both good and evil in its course. On the shores of the stream nature displays an inexhaustible fertility; in proportion as you recede from its banks, the powers of vegetation languish, the soil becomes poor, and the plants that survive have a sickly growth.
Nowhere have the great convulsions of the globe left more evident traces than in the valley of the Mississippi; the whole aspect of the country shows the powerful effects of water, both by its fertility and by its barrenness. The waters of the primeval ocean accumulated enormous beds of vegetable mould in the valley, which they levelled as they retired.
Upon the right shore of the river are seen immense plains, as smooth as if the husbandman had passed over them with his roller. As you approach the mountains the soil becomes more and more unequal and sterile; the ground is, as it were, pierced in a thousand places by primitive rocks, which appear like the bones of a skeleton whose flesh is partly consumed. The surface of the earth is covered with a granite sand and huge irregular masses of stone, among which a few plants force their growth, and give the appearance of a green field covered with the ruins of a vast edifice.
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These stones and this sand discover, on examination, a perfect analogy with those which compose the arid and broken summits of the Rocky Mountains. The flood of waters which washed the soil to the bottom of the valley afterwards carried away portions of the rocks themselves; and these, dashed and bruised against the neighboring cliffs, were left scattered like wrecks at their feet. On the eastern side of the Alleghanies, between the base of these mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, there lies a long ridge of rocks and sand, which the sea appears to have left behind as it retired.
The mean breadth of this territory does not exceed one hundred miles; but it is about nine hundred miles in length. This part of the American continent has a soil which offers every obstacle to the husbandman, and its vegetation is scanty and unvaried. Upon this inhospitable coast the first united efforts of human industry were made. The tongue of arid land was the cradle of those English colonies which were destined one day to become the United States of America. The centre of power still remains here; whilst in the backwoods the true elements of the great people to whom the future control of the continent belongs are gathering almost in secrecy together.
When the Europeans first landed on the shores of the West Indies, and afterwards on the coast of South America, they thought themselves transported into those fabulous regions of which poets had sung. The sea sparkled with phosphoric light, and the extraordinary transparency of its waters discovered to the view of the navigator all that had hitherto been hidden in the deep abyss.
Every object which met the sight, in this enchanting region, seemed prepared to satisfy the wants or contribute to the pleasures of man. Almost all the trees were loaded with nourishing fruits, and those which were useless as food delighted the eye by the brilliancy and variety of their colors. In groves of fragrant lemon-trees, wild figs, flowering myrtles, acacias, and oleanders, which were hung with festoons of various climbing plants, covered with flowers, a multitude of birds unknown in Europe displayed their bright plumage, glittering with purple and azure, and mingled their warbling with the harmony of a world teeming with life and motion.
But the air of these climates had so enervating an influence that man, absorbed by present enjoyment, was rendered regardless of the future. The ship seemed to float in air, the navigator became giddy as his eye penetrated through the crystal flood, and beheld submarine gardens, or beds of shells, or gilded fishes gliding among tufts and thickets of seaweed. North America appeared under a very different aspect; there everything was grave, serious, and solemn: it seemed created to be the domain of intelligence, as the South was that of sensual delight.
A turbulent and foggy ocean washed its shores. It was girt round by a belt of granite rocks, or by wide tracts of sand. The foliage of its woods was dark and gloomy, for they were composed of firs, larches, evergreen oaks, wild olive-trees, and laurels. Beyond this outer belt lay the thick shades of the central forest, where the largest trees which are produced in the two hemispheres grow side by side. The plane, the catalpa, the sugar-maple, and the Virginian poplar mingled their branches with those of the oak, the beech, and the lime. In these, as in the forests of the Old World, destruction was perpetually going on.
The ruins of vegetation were heaped upon each other; but there was no laboring hand to remove them, and their decay was not rapid enough to make room for the continual work of reproduction. Climbing plants, grasses, and other herbs forced their way through the mass of dying trees; they crept along their bending trunks, found nourishment in their dusty cavities, and a passage beneath the lifeless bark. Thus decay gave its assistance to life, and their respective productions were mingled together. The depths of these forests were gloomy and obscure, and a thousand rivulets, undirected in their course by human industry, preserved in them a constant moisture.
It was rare to meet with flowers, wild fruits, or birds beneath their shades. The fall of a tree overthrown by age, the rushing torrent of a cataract, the lowing of the buffalo, and the howling of the wind were the only sounds which broke the silence of nature. To the east of the great river, the woods almost disappeared; in their stead were seen prairies of immense extent.
Whether Nature in her infinite variety had denied the germs of trees to these fertile plains, or whether they had once been covered with forests, subsequently destroyed by the hand of man, is a question which neither tradition nor scientific research has been able to resolve. These immense deserts were not, however, devoid of human inhabitants. Some wandering tribes had been for ages scattered among the forest shades or the green pastures of the prairie.
From the mouth of the St. Their skin was reddish brown, their hair long and shining, their lips thin, and their cheekbones very prominent. The languages spoken by the North American tribes are various as far as regarded their words, but they were subject to the same grammatical rules. These rules differed in several points from such as had been observed to govern the origin of language.
Left Hand of Darkness - Study Guide
The idiom of the Americans seemed to be the product of new combinations, and bespoke an effort of the understanding of which the Indians of our days would be incapable. The land occupied by these tribes is not very distant from Behring's Strait, which allows of the supposition, that at a remote period they gave inhabitants to the desert continent of America. But this is a point which has not yet been clearly elucidated by science. See Malte Brun, vol. The social state of these tribes differed also in many respects from all that was seen in the Old World.
They seemed to have multiplied freely in the midst of their deserts without coming in contact with other races more civilized than their own. Accordingly, they exhibited none of those indistinct, incoherent notions of right and wrong, none of that deep corruption of manners, which is usually joined with ignorance and rudeness among nations which, after advancing to civilization, have relapsed into a state of barbarism.
The Indian was indebted to no one but himself; his virtues, his vices, and his prejudices were his own work; he had grown up in the wild independence of his nature. If, in polished countries, the lowest of the people are rude and uncivil, it is not merely because they are poor and ignorant, but that, being so, they are in daily contact with rich and enlightened men. The sight of their own hard lot and of their weakness, which is daily contrasted with the happiness and power of some of their fellow-creatures, excites in their hearts at the same time the sentiments of anger and of fear: the consciousness of their inferiority and of their dependence irritates while it humiliates them.
This state of mind displays itself in their manners and language; they are at once insolent and servile. The truth of this is easily proved by observation; the people are more rude in aristocratic countries than elsewhere, in opulent cities than in rural districts. In those places where the rich and powerful are assembled together the weak and the indigent feel themselves oppressed by their inferior condition. Unable to perceive a single chance of regaining their equality, they give up to despair, and allow themselves to fall below the dignity of human nature.
This unfortunate effect of the disparity of conditions is not observable in savage life: the Indians, although they are ignorant and poor, are equal and free. At the period when Europeans first came among them the natives of North America were ignorant of the value of riches, and indifferent to the enjoyments which civilized man procures to himself by their means.
Nevertheless there was nothing coarse in their demeanor; they practised an habitual reserve and a kind of aristocratic politeness. Mild and hospitable when at peace, though merciless in war beyond any known degree of human ferocity, the Indian would expose himself to die of hunger in order to succor the stranger who asked admittance by night at the door of his hut; yet he could tear in pieces with his hands the still quivering limbs of his prisoner.
The famous republics of antiquity never gave examples of more unshaken courage, more haughty spirits, or more intractable love of independence than were hidden in former times among the wild forests of the New World. What influence could they possess over such men as we have described? The Indian could live without wants, suffer without complaint, and pour out his death-song at the stake. Their notions on the great intellectual truths were in general simple and philosophical.
Further on, p. Hecwelder;" "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society," v. I; Jefferson's "Notes on Virginia," pp.
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What is said by Jefferson is of especial weight, on account of the personal merit of the writer, of his peculiar position, and of the matter-of-fact age in which he lived. Although we have here traced the character of a primitive people, yet it cannot be doubted that another people, more civilized and more advanced in all respects, had preceded it in the same regions. An obscure tradition which prevailed among the Indians to the north of the Atlantic informs us that these very tribes formerly dwelt on the west side of the Mississippi. Along the banks of the Ohio, and throughout the central valley, there are frequently found, at this day, tumuli raised by the hands of men.
On exploring these heaps of earth to their centre, it is usual to meet with human bones, strange instruments, arms and utensils of all kinds, made of metal, or destined for purposes unknown to the present race. The Indians of our time are unable to give any information relative to the history of this unknown people. Neither did those who lived three hundred years ago, when America was first discovered, leave any accounts from which even an hypothesis could be formed.
Tradition—that perishable, yet ever renewed monument of the pristine world—throws no light upon the subject. It is an undoubted fact, however, that in this part of the globe thousands of our fellow-beings had lived. When they came hither, what was their origin, their destiny, their history, and how they perished, no one can tell. How strange does it appear that nations have existed, and afterwards so completely disappeared from the earth that the remembrance of their very names is effaced; their languages are lost; their glory is vanished like a sound without an echo; though perhaps there is not one which has not left behind it some tomb in memory of its passage!
The most durable monument of human labor is that which recalls the wretchedness and nothingness of man. Although the vast country which we have been describing was inhabited by many indigenous tribes, it may justly be said at the time of its discovery by Europeans to have formed one great desert. The Indians occupied without possessing it. It is by agricultural labor that man appropriates the soil, and the early inhabitants of North America lived by the produce of the chase.
Their implacable prejudices, their uncontrolled passions, their vices, and still more perhaps their savage virtues, consigned them to inevitable destruction. The ruin of these nations began from the day when Europeans landed on their shores; it has proceeded ever since, and we are now witnessing the completion of it. They seem to have been placed by Providence amidst the riches of the New World to enjoy them for a season, and then surrender them. Those coasts, so admirably adapted for commerce and industry; those wide and deep rivers; that inexhaustible valley of the Mississippi; the whole continent, in short, seemed prepared to be the abode of a great nation, yet unborn.
In that land the great experiment was to be made, by civilized man, of the attempt to construct society upon a new basis; and it was there, for the first time, that theories hitherto unknown, or deemed impracticable, were to exhibit a spectacle for which the world had not been prepared by the history of the past. Utility of knowing the origin of nations in order to understand their social condition and their laws—America the only country in which the starting-point of a great people has been clearly observable—In what respects all who emigrated to British America were similar—In what they differed—Remark applicable to all Europeans who established themselves on the shores of the New World—Colonization of Virginia—Colonization of New England—Original character of the first inhabitants of New England—Their arrival—Their first laws—Their social contract—Penal code borrowed from the Hebrew legislation—Religious fervor—Republican spirit—Intimate union of the spirit of religion with the spirit of liberty.
After the birth of a human being his early years are obscurely spent in the toils or pleasures of childhood. As he grows up the world receives him, when his manhood begins, and he enters into contact with his fellows. He is then studied for the first time, and it is imagined that the germ of the vices and the virtues of his maturer years is then formed.
This, if I am not mistaken, is a great error. We must begin higher up; we must watch the infant in its mother's arms; we must see the first images which the external world casts upon the dark mirror of his mind; the first occurrences which he witnesses; we must hear the first words which awaken the sleeping powers of thought, and stand by his earliest efforts, if we would understand the prejudices, the habits, and the passions which will rule his life.
The entire man is, so to speak, to be seen in the cradle of the child. The growth of nations presents something analogous to this: they all bear some marks of their origin; and the circumstances which accompanied their birth and contributed to their rise affect the whole term of their being. If we were able to go back to the elements of states, and to examine the oldest monuments of their history, I doubt not that we should discover the primal cause of the prejudices, the habits, the ruling passions, and, in short, of all that constitutes what is called the national character; we should then find the explanation of certain customs which now seem at variance with the prevailing manners; of such laws as conflict with established principles; and of such incoherent opinions as are here and there to be met with in society, like those fragments of broken chains which we sometimes see hanging from the vault of an edifice, and supporting nothing.
This might explain the destinies of certain nations, which seem borne on by an unknown force to ends of which they themselves are ignorant. It is a club for hopeless romantics. More mistakes! An entertaining and intelligent novel about mistakes. How we make them, avoid them, forget them and are sometimes haunted by them throughout our lives. Kirsten Hammann celebrates her 25th anniversary as an author this year. This brings the total number of territories sold to The award was created to further the presence of women cartoonists in Scandinavian newspapers and magazines.
Wild witch is published in 14 territories. Arc and Spark First time author Lise Bock has been greeted by rave reviews for her work of non-fiction, The Arc and the Spark, about the pioneers of wireless communication. About the understanding of electromagnetism and electricity and the invention and use of radiotechnology from to And touches all marriages.
The programme has been established in collaboration with Talent Norge and the Norwegian Publishers Association. Simen Ekern is an outstanding nonfiction writer and journalist who has written about the rise of the Front National in France, and its influence beyond the borders of France. DR, producer of 'The Killing', 'Borgen' and other international successes, has been Emmy-nominated 22 times with four wins. DR received 'The International Emmy Directorate Award' for its outstanding contribution to international television in Granhus focusses on the intense and unpredictable nature of Lofoten in Norway by creating a backdrop for ice cold and powerful plots, that continuously take both the reader and the police by surprise.
We follow young Kenneth and his personal struggles, on to his studies in creative writing in New York City 20 years later. Other sales include Norway, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Heibergs book has been nominated among five others and the winner will be announced in March The winner will be announced in February. This autumn, the book has been published in Holland, Sweden and Germany to great critical acclaim and the Danish, French and US editions will be published during Spring The winner will be announced in May Houm displays great psychological insight and paints a unique portrait of sadness that is impossible not to be moved by.
Books are nominated for the Award by invited public libraries in cities throughout the world. The shortlist will be publicised on the 11st April with the final winner announced on the 21st June The novel has also attracted serious attention abroad with foreign rights selling to a number of territories, the two most recent being: World English Melville House and Poland Foksal. Frankfurt Frankfurt Book Fair is upon us and our agents are hard at work spreading the good word about our talented authors, as seen here with our senior agent Monica Gram. Rave Reviews! The politicians who thrive the best, are probably those who love people, and Stoltenberg does.
German rights were sold pre publication to KiWi. The novel centres around Sedd who grows up with this Norwegian grandfather and Austrian grandmother in a Norwegian mountain hotel in the early s. The novel is filled with humour, exquisite prose and an elegant portrayal of characters that are positioned around a tragic secret. She does it again! Rights sold in seven territories, film rights optioned by ndf. La Martiniere already reprinted twice two weeks after the release.
A delight," ELLE.
In addition, the author has been chosen as one of Ten New Voices From Europe, a programme that enables the selected authors special promotion by an international jury. She walked alone until her route fell into step with the 'tide of refugees'. It is a novel and a travelogue, a lament, and a satirical song. Sold to Pelikanen, Norway. Norwegian rights are under negotiation. New novel by Morten Brask Morten Brask, winner of several international literary prizes, most recently the Bottari Lattes Grinzane Prize , has published a new novel, THE VICTIMS, a gripping, intense and harrowingly relevant novel about what happens when a woman gets raped and how she is percieved by her surroundings.
The winner will be announced in May. Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish rights have all been sold. The award recognizes the best new and emerging authors in Europe. The winner will be announced on April 12 and will receive euros, as well as support for translation funding. The novel recently also received the respectable Millepages Award, and has now sold well above Published by Politikens Forlag, Denmark, in June Photo: Tom Ingvardsen. Klougarts literature is ambitious and demanding, but truly rewarding.
All together there are six Danish novels competing for the highly respected award. The selection process starts in December and the winner will be announced in June. Henning Mankell has passed away Henning Mankell is dead. He was 67 years old. Henning Mankell was one of the great Swedish authors of our time, loved by readers in Sweden and all over the world. His work includes around forty novels and numerous plays. His books have sold more than forty million copies and are translated into more than forty languages.
Solidarity with those in need run through his entire work and manifested itself in action until the very end. Conveyed in a highly poetic form of prose The novel is receiving great reviews and Aftenposten has shortlisted it as one of this year's major Norwegian titles. Godhavn, well known for its gruesome abuse of its residents, comes vividly to life in Godhavn. New Mankell novel Henning Mankell is one of the best selling Swedish authors internationally. His books have sold more than 40 million copies world-wide and have been translated into 42 languages.
It will be published by Politikens Forlag, Denmark, in August