Threads and Traces: True False Fictive

Threads and Traces: True False Fictive

Carlo Ginzburg

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0520259610

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Carlo Ginzburg’s brilliant and timely new essay collection takes a bold stand against naive positivism and allegedly sophisticated neo-skepticism. It looks deeply into questions raised by decades of post-structuralism: What constitutes historical truth? How do we draw a boundary between truth and fiction? What is the relationship between history and memory? How do we grapple with the historical conventions that inform, in different ways, all written documents? In his answers, Ginzburg peels away layers of subsequent readings and interpretations that envelop every text to make a larger argument about history and fiction. Interwoven with compelling autobiographical references, Threads and Traces bears moving witness to Ginzburg’s life as a European Jew, the abiding strength of his scholarship, and his deep engagement with the historian’s craft.

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human condition, in a time and place naturally more circumscribed than that in which works of history, in the more usual sense of the word, ordinarily unfold. In a way, there is the same difference between the usual sort of history and your own as between a geographic map that simply indicates the presence of mountain chains, rivers, cities, towns, and major roads of a vast region, and a topographic map, where all of this (and whatever else might be shown in a more restricted area) is presented in

religious ceremonies. The priests, Monardes wrote, before divining the future, became stupefied with the tobacco smoke to the point of collapsing on the ground as if dead. Then, after they were revived, they responded to the questions which had been put to them, interpreting “in their own way, or by following the inspiration of the Devil,” the fantasies and illusions they had experienced in their cataleptic states. But it was not only priests who became “inebriated” (emborracharse) with tobacco

thought, to whom the two writers forlornly turn: “You have trumpeted the scandal of tyranny eloquently, tearfully, sarcastically, thunderously; but the good that power has brought about—on that you have kept silent.” But as we know, the author of the Treatise on Tolerance shared with the great majority of his contemporaries a number of attitudes, especially on the question of the human races, which promoted injustice rather than denied it. There is no point in repeating the commonplace on the

reflection. I remember one exception to this rule: Arsenio Frugoni, who, as I understood later, returned now and then in his seminars in Pisa to the topic of the subjective nature of the narrative sources, which he had discussed a few years earlier in his Arnaldo da Brescia. Frugoni suggested to me—I was in my second year at the University of Pisa—that I prepare a colloquium on the school of the Annales, so I began to read Marc Bloch. In his Métier d’historien I ran into a page which many years

(1931). 4. Through Proust, perhaps mediated by Benjamin, Kracauer substituted for the analogy which he had proposed in 1927 between photography and historicism one that was completely different and in some ways the opposite, between photography and history (in the sense of historia rerum gestarum, or historiography), which he fully discussed in History: The Last Things before the Last. But to understand the full significance of the juxtaposition, Kracauer was suggesting, we need to recall that in

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