Truth and histories

I picked up a book at the library recently called The Creative Writing Handbook, which appears to touch upon a large number of different subjects surrounding writing. I’m not sure how useful it will be to me as a writer, but the book does offer some interesting food for thought on occasion. For example, take this passage on Truth, and touching upon the perception of history in the modern world:

The Romantic era perceived ‘great’ writers to be the custodians of the Truth, as though they had access to a wisdom that was beyond merely mortal. The writer, if you like, had the key to unlock the mystery of the universe.

This is not the view held now. Think of Auschwitz. No one account of an individual survivor of a concentration camp is held up as exemplary; instead we look at the mass of stories and testimonials and appreciate the significance of them all. We are aware too of those who did not survive to tell their tale. History is full of oppressive silences. How do we verify history? Whose history is it? Certain revisionist historians are already arguing that the Holocaust never happened; that it was simply a Jewish conspiracy. Single, unverified versions of the past and present have brought about and justified dictatorships and colonisations, the oppression of women and the marginalisation of children–to name a few horrors. There are no absolutes. History with a capital H has been usurped by individual histories each valid in their own right; Truth with a capital T is a chimera and only a multiplicity of truths exist. There is no ultimate meaning to be divined in man or the universe; there are no solutions to anything. Self and identity as fixed concepts have been challenged; we can theorise to our heart’s content but the self is fluid, perplexing and ever-changing.


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