Author(s): Catherine Brown
A land of unlikeness
The English novel The Go-Between (1953) begins a tale of memory and loss
with two sentences a historian could love: “The past is a foreign country.
They do things differently there.”1 The novel’s narrator should know: he is
a librarian, someone who, as the memory ghost of his twelve-year-old self
will remind him, spends his days cataloguing the relics of the book-past.
And many who now live with the past for a living might nod in recognition:
the metaphor slips on comfortably, like a well-worn shoe. The past can feel
like a place as much as it does a time—a foreign place, outside the doors of
the familiar, beyond the gate and the gatekeepers of the now.
Periodical Title: Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Year of Publication: 2000
Volume Number: 30
Page Numbers: 547-574
Issue Number: 3