Why Bother With the Past?

I’ve just reread the darkly splendid Sacred Hunger so as to fully enjoy its recently published sequel The Quality of Mercy.

Over the years, I’ve read five of Barry Unsworth’s historical novels, each of which cleave mind and sense so seamlessly that it’s possible to forget that they are ever at odds.

In this lecture originally delivered in 2009 at the Key West Literary Seminar, he talks about why history matters to him and to us:

Why bother with the past? The first and immediate answer is that we haven’t got any choice in the matter. The past is being forged from moment to moment as we live, our past and the past of the world, in unbroken continuity. I’m here, I’m standing here, and I am what I am because of decisions that my father made long, long before I was thought of . . .

Download the podcast here. Want more? Listen to “The Economy of Truth,” another Unsworth lecture from the same seminar, here.


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