In a coincidence too strange to pass up, Barack Obama’s speech on race in America yesterday borrows the same fragment of William Faulkner that we’ve been using to promote next year’s theme of Historical Fiction and The Search For Truth. The quote, from Requiem for a Nun, is correctly “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” (Obama paraphrased it somewhat differently, as “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”)
The historically unique candidacies of Obama and Hillary Clinton will no doubt be on the minds of the eminent historians and historical fiction writers joining us at inauguration time next January. We expect Eric Foner, well-known for his work on political history and the history of American race relations, to be especially salient. An article he published in The Nation last month provides some historical background to the race/sex subtext of the 2008 campaign, as it examines “the complexity of bringing together the aspirations of different social groups within a single political movement.” You can find it here.