And did I bid you remember that for each protagonist who once stepped on to the stage of so-called historical events, there were thousands, millions, who never entered the theatre - who never knew that the show was running - who got on with the donkey-work of coping with reality?
True, true. But it doesn’t stop there. Because each one of those numberless non-participants was doubtless concerned with raising in the flatness of his own unsung existence his own personal stage, his own props and scenery - for there are very few of us who can be, for any length of time, merely realistic. So there’s no escaping it: even if we miss the grand repertoire of history, we yet imitate it in miniature and endorse, in miniature, its longing for presence, for feature, for purpose, for content.
And there’s no saying what consequences we won’t risk, what reactions to our actions, what repercussions, what brick towers built to be knocked down, what chasings of our own tails, what chaos we won’t assent in order to assure ourselves that, none the less, things are happening. And there’s no saying what heady potions we won’t con cot, what meanings, myths, manias we won’t imbibe in order to convince ourselves that reality is not an empty vessel.
—Waterland, by Graham Swift