''When I read Herodotus, I seem to hear some Eastern peasant narrate and “philosophize.” —Not for nothing had he traveled among the Scythians.''

E. M. Cioran, Drawn and Quartered

Can someone explain me why here we have the past perfect of ''to travel''? I know that the past perfect is used to talk about something that took place before another action in the past, but here I can't recognize any.

1 Answer 1


The two past events being related as prior to latter are (1) his travel among the Scythians and (2) his writing his book. That act of writing is in the past even though the reading experience is in the present, and it is conventional when writing about literature to express the events narrated therein in present tense. This conventional use of present tense may be what is throwing you off.

  • So, there are actually two distinct actions that make the use of past perfect possible: first the writing of the book (which Herodotus wrote some thousand years ago), and second the reading of Herodotus' works, that the author has read but is talking about using the present tense (When I read Herodotus...). And yes, the apparent absence of another past action misled me. Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 15:41
  • I have edited to clarify which are the two past events in question. Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 17:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.