At the beginning of his extensive novel Joseph and his Brothers, Thomas Mann writes a pre-play The Descent to the Underworld, an essay on nature of time, on past, on lasting. So, he says:
‘Deep is the well of the past. Should it not be called an abyss?
It should be called that even then, or perhaps exactly then, when the word and question are only and solely about a human being and his past; about this mysterious being, which embodies our own natural/cheerful, and supernatural/miserable life, whose secret, which is entirely comprehensible, constitutes alpha and omega of all our speech and questions, therefore it provides each speech with features of anxiety and fire, and each question with feature of ardency. However, in doing so, what exactly happens is that the deeper we explore, the more we penetrate into the underworld of the past, we see that essences of a man’s life, his history, his civilized behaviour cannot in any way be measured with a plumb because they elude into hopelessness more and more distantly and all the time in front of our lead for measuring depth, no matter to which affectional time length we unwind its thread.’[i]
[i] Thomas Mann: Joseph and his Brothers