What distinguishes Marx’s own theory from all others in which the notion of “making history” has found a place is only that he alone realized that if one takes history to be the object of a process of fabrication or making, there must come a moment when this “object” is completed, and that if one imagines that one can “make history,” one cannot escape the consequence that there will be an end to history. Whenever we hear of grandiose aims in politics, such as establishing a new society in which justice will be guaranteed forever, or fighting a war to end all wars or to make the whole world safe for democracy, we are moving in the realm of this kind of thinking.
In this context, it’s important to see that here the process of history, as it shows itself in our calendar’s stretching into the infinity of the past and the future, has been abandoned for the sake of an altogether different kind of process, that of making something which has a beginning as well as an end, whose laws of motion, therefore, can be determined (for instance as dialectical movement) and whose innermost content can be discovered (for instance as class struggle). This process, however, is incapable of guaranteeing men and kind of immortality because its end cancels out and makes unimportant whatever went before: in the classless society the best mankind can do with history is to forget the whole unhappy affair, whose only purpose was to abolish itself. It cannot bestow meaning on particular occurrences either, because it has dissolved all of the particular into means whose meaningfulness ends the moment the end-product is finished: single events and deeds and sufferings have no more meaning here than hammer and nails have with respect to the finished table.
Chronological reforms for scholarly purposes have occurred many times in the past without being accepted in everyday life, precisely because they were invented for scholarly convenience only and did not correspond to any changed time-concept in society at large. The decisive thing in our system is not that the birth of Christ now appears as the turning point of world history, for it had been recognized as such and with greater force many centuries before without any similar effect upon our chronology, but rather that now, for the first time, the history of mankind reaches back into an infinite past to which we can add at will and into which we can inquire further as it stretches ahead into an infinite future. This twofold infinity of past and future eliminates all notions of beginning and end, establishing mankind in a potential earthly immortality. What at first glance looks like a Christianization of world history in fact eliminates all religious time-speculations from secular history. So far as secular history is concerned we live in a process which knows no beginning and no end and which thus does not permit us to entertain eschatological expectations. Nothing could be more alien to Christian thought than this concept of an earthly immortality of mankind . . .
[Henri] Bergson said that freedom exists in duration—what that means is that when you're having a meal with a friend and you lose track of time and you look down and your watch and you just realize that two hours have gone by, and you don't know where they went, or you're watching a movie, and the hours of the movie seem to go by in a second—that's when you're feeling your freedom. That's how you experience your freedom—as a suspense within duration. You're suspended within a kind of timelessness, and within that space there's the freedom to possibly see the world in a different way, to possibly make a different choice than the one that you're habitually committed to.
Many authors have employed geometric metaphors for that so linear form: the novel (Dodgson’s chess board; Durrell’s four-coordinate quartet). The two volumes of “Dhalgren” might enlighteningly be considered two wings of a möbius strip (as in the Escher, two-dimensional projection, around which those ants are marching). Such a (s)trip needless to say, is only fully enjoyed the second time round; though one passes over the same space, one is on an entirely different surface. By extension, if you read Vol I, then Vol II, then Vol I again, it will seem rather different from the first time through, in the light of what comes after it—or does it come before? The ambiguity, any way, is held up intentionally (yes, gentle reader, Vol I was written first, and that is where to climb on.) Using an inner and outer work is also, certainly, not new (Shakespeare’s plays within plays; Nabokov’s critique of Kinbote’s critique of Shade’s critique of Nabokov.) To any one who wishes to take the trip three or more times (the invitation is, naturally, open to all) and who begins to note, once familiarity has allowed him to travel in more spurious directions than dead on, that the outer novel and the inner notebook are connected in more complicated ways than the ‘outer’ and ‘inner’ surface of a twisted band—indeed, bare more relation to the external and internal lugs of a klein bottle—I can only suggest this effect is not entirely an accident.