The Death of Virgil is an extraordinary book. Here’s an excerpt that has stayed with me. I love its sensuous language and its grand intentions. I love the way its commas bend to keep the sentences from collapsing. The questions that this passage concludes with seems to me to be vital questions that we must ask of ourselves often if not daily. What we think of when answering these questions – about the nature of memory and experience – speaks to the power that a great work like this holds. Meanwhile, Yale University Library has a comprehensive archive for those who want to learn more about Hermann Broch.
“Oh, memories unforgettable, memories full of wheat-fields, full of forests, full of the crackling, rustling, cool-walled forests, full of the groves of youth, eye-intoxicated at morning, heart-intoxicated at evening, green quivering up and gray quivering down, oh knowledge of coming hither and going hence, pageant of memory! But the conquered, beaten, the conqueror, jubilant, the stony space where all this happens, the burning eye, the burning blindness—, for what undiscoverable existence was still worth while to keep oneself awake? what future was worth this unspeakable effort to remember? what was the hereafter toward which remembrance must go? was there in reality any such hereafter?”
– Hermann Broch, The Death of Virgil