The obsession with the Dead * The Blind Assassin Quote

“Most of us will. We’ll choose knowledge no matter what, we’ll maim ourselves in the process, we’ll stick our hands into the flames for it if necessary. Curiosity is not our only motive: love or grief or despair or hatred is what drives us on. We’ll spy relentlessly on the dead: we’ll open their letters, we’ll read their journals, we’ll go through their trash, hoping for a hint, a final word, an explanation, from those who have deserted us–who’ve left us holding the bag, which is often a good deal emptier than we’d supposed.

But what about those who plant such clues, for us to stumble on? Why do they bother? Egotism? Pity? Revenge? A simple claim to existence, like scribbling your initials on a washroom wall? The combination of presence and anonymity–confession without penance, truth without consequences–it has its attractions. Getting the blood off your hands, one way or another.

Those who leave such evidence can scarcely complain if strangers come along afterwards and poke their noses into every single thing that would once have been none of their business. And not only strangers: lovers, friends, relations. We’re voyeurs, all of us. Why should we assume that anything in the past is ours for the taking, simply because we’ve found it? We’re all grave robbers, once we open the doors locked by others.

But only locked. The rooms and their contents have been left intact. If those leaving them had wanted oblivion, there was always fire.”

– Margaret Atwood – The Blind Assassin

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