|From The Book Haven|
I was interested to see that Nicholas Boyle, author of Goethe: The Poet and the Age, of which two volumes have so far appeared, also published in 2012 a book entitled: 2014: How to Survive the Next World Crisis. This is a case of the kind of caution one must use in choosing a title. According to a headline of a 2012 review of the book in the English Daily Mail, "World could be plunged into crisis in 2014: Cambridge expert predicts 'a great event' will determine course of the century." Retuers (UK) headline: "Historian warns of looming political crisis." Well, 2014 is past, and what was that great event? An interdisciplinary journal, Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy, opines: "A tempting thesis, leavened with erudite references, to Hegel, Bentham, Johnson and Jefferson, and sound on the confused waffle that surrounds 'human rights.'"
|Cover image of book, 1949|
As much as I admire Professor Boyle, I am always skeptical of people wandering outside of their discipline to opine on the state of the world, especially the future. Although Reuters identifies Boyle as a historian, he is really a scholar of literature. Moreover, despite having spent many years trying to enter into the world of the 18th century, I am reticent to draw lessons for the present from events and the actions of individuals of that time. One only lives when one lives. Thus, history or the writing of history is of interest for the "errors" of the past, but I am not really sure what lessons one can draw for current issues. Yet, of course, that is the aim of even Safranski's biography of Goethe: "im Spiegel Goethes [Generation] auch sich selbst und die eigene Zeit besser zu verstehen."
Photo credits: Cynthia Haven; Only Artists; Dictus