A History of the Future

S. K. Page

A History of the Future, by David A. Wilson (McArthur & Company), is a great idea for a book: a history of what people in the past made of the future they would never know. That we are that future is obvious to us, even if it wasn’t to them, but to judge from the tone of Wilson’s book, the people of the past were generally deluded or mistaken and always wrong. If only they had had the common sense to be one of us, or perhaps to be Wilson himself; then he could stop chuckling indulgently about the foibles of the past. In this disappointing work Wilson reveals himself to be a Pastist, and anyone born in the past will not be allowed by him to forget it. He has forgotten Walter Benjamin’s comment about the “secret agreement” between the past and the present: “Like every generation that preceded us, we have been endowed with a weak Messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim. That claim cannot be settled cheaply.”

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