Very witty Martha Gill. An amusing and thoughtful article. History is constantly revised – every age has its different slant on the events of yesterday. As time recedes “facts” (if they ever exist in the absence of interpretation) become more muddied and opinion becomes louder.
Who would have imagined 100 years ago that “colonialism” would have become a dirty word? Who in the late 19th Century criticised Jardine’s for pushing opium on the Chinese (other than the Chinese)?
Society changes. Hopefully for the better. An old colonel down in Kent I met a few years ago was still talking of the need to shoot down natives who misbehaved. I was shocked. My father was deeply racist. I was shocked, particularly since he also professed Christianity.
And yet each generation makes its mistakes and those mistakes only become evident with hindsight.
Even so, if we were to agree to a ban on art reflecting events until 20 years had passed, there is no guarantee that the playwright would get it “right”. He would merely represent the coloured glass of his own generation and a generation after that mores would once again have changed.
So thank you for a reflective article – I must give it some further thought!
In a different article Emma Brockes wonders in the same vein whether recently deceased author Tom Wolfe has become too dated to read. A slightly different angle on the same question.
I am a long term fan of Tom Wolfe and have read much of what he wrote. We still read Shakespeare, Jane Austin Dickens and Chaucer. We will continue to read Tom Wolfe.
Yes, their language may be antiquated and difficult for us to understand but these people wrote about human nature and society. That I fear has changed very little. Wolf wrote about greed, prejudice, race and had valuable things to say. As an investment banker and long time financial market analyst, Bonfire of the Vanities was actually a pretty profound read for me and remains so – the greed, insincerity, malfeasance and even fraud still prevail in Wall Street and the City of London. Watch “Billions” for an amusing update.
No, Wolfe was an expert in the human psyche – there is nothing outdated in his views on the awfulness of human behaviour.