Monday, May 8, 2017

“The narrow aperture
of national interest”

In a 1939 lecture, Stefan Zweig describes his reaction to looking into his old high-school history textbook:

And instantly it dawned on me — that here history had been artfully prepared, deformed, coloured, falsified, and all with clear, deliberate intention. It was obvious that this book, printed in Austria and destined for Austrian schools, must have rooted in the minds of young men the idea that the spirit of the world and its thousand outpourings had only one objective in mind: the greatness of Austria and its empire. But twelve hours by rail from Vienna — a couple of hours today by plane — in France or Italy, the school textbooks were prepared with the directly opposing scenario: God or the spirit of history laboured solely for the Italian or French motherland. Already, before our eyes had barely opened, we were forced to don different-coloured spectacles, according to the country, to prevent us during our entry into the world from seeing with free and humane eyes, ensuring we viewed everything through the narrow aperture of national interest.

“The Historiography of Tomorrow,” in Messages from a Lost World: Europe on the Brink, trans. Will Stone (London: Pushkin Press, 2016).
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All OCA Stefan Zweig posts (Pinboard)

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