Historical Truth

Kierkegaard had so much to say 150 years ago that is still fresh and relevant today, especially about writing and journalism. For instance, there’s been a great deal of discussion lately about the search for ‘historical truth’ in regards to actions taken during wars in the past, and how this truth relates to the current US presidential election.

However, as we are finding, as Kierkegaard found, the search for historical truth is less a matter of finding all the facts, as it is finding just the right set of facts for any specific group at any point in time.

In “Writing Sampler”, he wrote the following, as demonstration:

Merchant Marcussen in Badstuestraede had a large dinner party yesterday. At the table there occurred, however, the misfortune that the merchant knocked a gravy boat over himself and the lady next to him. This is how it happened. Just at the very moment when the servant offered the gravy boat, the merchant stood up to make a toast. With a movement of his arm, he bumped the servant and the gravy boat. This is the historical truth. We are well aware that a rumor is circulating that tells the story overwise, namely, that with a movement of her head the lady bumped the servant. But this is only rumor without any official standing. We have received no information as to the lady’s name. Some mention Miss Lindvad; others say it was Gusta Jobbe. As soon as we learn it, we will immediately report it. The name is of enormous importance, because for the [next] week there will, of course, be talk of nothing else in all of Copenhagen and in all of Denmark.

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