History’s Part in the Novel

Will has little knowledge of the history of Northern Ireland. He is not alone in this respect, for most of the characters are also naïve to historic events key to the understanding of their plight. The problem is compounded by the flawed history found in Saga of the Six Counties, a copy of which Will finds in his B&B room and then reads to excess during the course of the novel.

At the beginning of the story, Will mentions a “…wee bit of a slender book I toted along for the long flight over: Friedrich Nietzsche’s essay on the advantages and disadvantages of history for life.”  The reader is meant to assume that Will has read the 50-odd page essay prior to the story’s outset while inbound to Ireland from the states. While the book is not again mentioned until the climax of the story, the tenets of that essay are often alluded to in the plot. A reading of the essay is recommended, as it provides important insights into the inner makings of the story.

Here is a link to the entire essay: Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Sample pertinent excerpts from said essay:

“Only when historical culture is ruled and led by a higher force and does not itself govern and lead does it bring with it a powerful new stream of life, a developing culture for example, something healthy with future promise.
Insofar as history stands in the service of life, it stands in the service of an unhistorical power and will therefore, in this subordinate position, never be able to (and should never be able to) become pure science, something like mathematics. However, the problem to what degree living requires the services of history generally is one of the most important questions and concerns with respect to the health of a human being, a people, or a culture. For with a certain excess of history, living crumbles away and degenerates. Moreover, history itself also degenerates through this decay.”

“Imagine the most extreme example, a person who did not possess the power of forgetting at all, who would be condemned to see everywhere a coming into being. Such a person no longer believes in his own being, no longer believes in himself, sees everything in moving points flowing out of each other, and loses himself in this stream of becoming. He will, like the true pupil of Heraclitus, finally hardly dare any more to lift his finger.”

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