Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Adjusting For Wind

My reading drifted away from a second Flashman to the comforting complexity of Braudel's Mediterranean. Retracing my steps through my prior reading, I have made it to page 200, the section section of the massive text. An earlier section caught my eye with its candor and philosophical crackle:

This directs attention to the coherence of the historical areas within the peninsular boundaries. These boundaries were by no means impassable. It is mistaken to talk of 'electric' frontiers, such as Ramon Fernandez imagined surrounding Spain. Such frontiers never existed, along the Pyrenees or the Alps, any more than along the Danube, in the Balkans, or on the mountains of Armenia, an outstanding region for roads and ethnic mixtures, the Taurus mountains, the Atlas and the Sahara, south of North Africa. Nevertheless, the peninsulas are bordered on the mainland sign, from which they project, by obstacles that have hindered relations and exchanges. This in turn should not be underestimated. Paraphrasing Metternich's famous remark, Augustin Renaudet said of Italy in the sixteenth century, with its many divisions and uncertain contours . . .that it is merely a geographical expression. (p.164)

That distillation of ideas and space recall Benedict Anderson's whimsical suggestion that what if those unknown soliders, in those national memorials worldwide, aren't of their supposed nationality?


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