I Gervinus Rothling have emptied life not from a glass but from a magnum. Have known history as I know my own skin. Have crossed and recrossed Europe like Napoleon's hordes, have seen Salonika burning and the face of an old man floating, smiling in the Grand Canal. I have smelled new wheat in the Carpathians and eaten eel, salt-cold from the Tyrrhenian Sea. I have passed my hands over the stone roses in the cloister at Albi and over a woman's hair in a cellar in Kharkov. A magnum, a Jeroboam, till it was empty. God how we lived! Each terrible year like a hundred ordinary years, like a thousand. He was true to his word. A thousand-year Reich inside each of us, a millennium of remembered life. We have left nothing for those who came after. That's our real crime. They are ghosts, plump ghosts, lean ghosts, the whole generation of them. Not their fault. We left them the cold ash of history, the skin of the grape. But I wouldn't trade. I wouldn't.
-- George Steiner, The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H., 1979