Monday, November 12, 2012

No past for the present …

… Ancient and/or Modern — Theodore Dalrymple. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


[. . .]

An article in the French leftish-liberal newspaper, Le Monde, for 15 September, drew attention with evident unease or even mild disapproval to the results of a poll conducted in France by the fine arts magazine, Beaux Arts. To the question of whether it is more important to safeguard the treasures of the past or to promote creativity, the respondents replied by a very large majority that the former is the more important. The article implied that, pace the advertisement, forty million Frenchman can be wrong.

[. . .]

The fact is that, after hundreds of years, the French have lost altogether the knack of building something that someone in the future might look upon with pleasure. They are not the only European nation to have done so; but their architects are definitely among the worst and most incompetent in the world.

It was in this context that the magazine Beaux Arts took the poll. With a few notable exceptions, all that has been erected in the last ninety years in France has been ugly.

[. . .]

Our problem is not that we preserve the past; it is that we produce so little that is, or ever will be, worth preserving. Destroying the past will not improve our performance, only make us less aware of how deficient our performance actually is. I suppose that is a solution of a kind. 

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