I learned the word only a year or two ago. In Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, the life-rebooting protagonist Ursula Todd tells her psycho-therapist that time is not circular but, rather, “It’s like a … palimpsest.” To which the doctor replies, “Oh dear, that sounds very vexing.”

Looking the word up, I discovered that a literal palimpsest is a manuscript in which earlier writing has been effaced in order to reuse it and add on new text. But often glimpses of the previous remain visible. And clearly at the metaphorical or non-literal level, “palimpsest” is creative and theoretical catnip. Which is why I was so tickled to get to use the word in this post.

Codex Nitriensis, f.20r (Syriac text)
Codex Nitriensis, palimpsest [Public domain]