Friday, December 28, 2012

Palimpsest

A bit from an article entitled, "A Vested Interest in Palimpsest". The entire article can be read in the National Post at http://arts.nationalpost.com/2012/12/18/robert-fulford-a-vested-interest-in-palimpsest/

"My favourite is 'palimpsest.' When I first noticed it in print, four decades ago, it struck me as odd, beautiful and full of promise. It’s a term that engages many writers and continues to attract new meanings but to some readers it still seems slightly far-fetched, maybe outrageous... Earlier this month, when an art gallery in England opened an exhibition called Love in Palimpsests, a reviewer called the word “an obscure, esoteric term.” Yet it’s now in the titles of more than 200 books in the University of Toronto library catalogue.

Once I spotted it, and fell in love with it, palimpsest began popping up everywhere, as a word will sometimes do. Coleridge used it when trying to recover something from his memory. Conan Doyle, in a late Sherlock Holmes story, had Watson say that he and Holmes were at work, “with a powerful lens deciphering the remains of the original inscription upon a palimpsest.”

Orwell used it as a metaphor in 1984 when describing Big Brother’s way of eliminating memory — “All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary.”