Roundtable

The Rest Is History

Proust is caught on film, laundry chutes are more interesting than you thought, and fake news might be real.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, February 17, 2017

Marcel Proust in 1895, photographed byOtto Wegener.

• Discovered: Proust on film. (The Guardian)

• Parsing the historical riches of Europe: “It should be emphasised that Europe’s success was not the result of any inherent superiority of European (much less Christian) culture. It was rather what is known as a classical emergent property, a complex and unintended outcome of simpler interactions on the whole. The modern European economic miracle was the result of contingent institutional outcomes. It was neither designed nor planned. But it happened, and once it began, it generated a self-reinforcing dynamic of economic progress that made knowledge-driven growth both possible and sustainable.” (Aeon)

• Recipes for the color red, from books and notes of the Middle Ages. (Paris Review Daily)

• The news is fake but the history is real: “Procopius, the Byzantine historian of the sixth century AD churned out dubious information, known as Anecdota, which he kept secret until his death, in order to smear the reputation of the Emperor Justinian after lionizing the emperor in his official histories. Pietro Aretino tried to manipulate the pontifical election of 1522 by writing wicked sonnets about all the candidates (except the favorite of his Medici patrons) and pasting them for the public to admire on the bust of a figure known as Pasquino near the Piazza Navona in Rome. The ‘pasquinade’ then developed into a common genre of diffusing nasty news, most of it fake, about public figures.” (The New York Review of Books)

• A nineteenth-century Chinese script only women knew. (Atlas Obscura)

• Considering the laundry chute: “A laundry chute is a mythic domestic space. It’s an unwatched door to nowhere, the open throat of an old home. Its reputation has as much to do with convenience as with the early recognition that a house is not solid through and through. The laundry chute is a place where stains and embarrassing odors go to be erased, and dropping linen down the chute is a mnemonic for forgetting those embarrassments, for making such accidents invisible. Most of a laundry chute is sealed behind walls, and this covert quality draws people to encounter such items that laundry chutes are built explicitly to contain.” (The Atlantic)