Making the modern culture of amnesia
192pp. Bloomsbury. £14.
This is not a book about memory and forgetting, and what those things show us about life. (For that, go to Charles Fernyhough’s excellent Pieces of Light: The new science of memory, 2012.) It “isn’t primarily about an individual forgetting so much as about groups, communities, and societies failing to remember”, O’Gorman says. His idea is that modernity is making us forget history, and on this thesis he hangs opinions about the novel, shopping malls, smartphones and immigration, without ever really examining his foundational proposition. He assumes from the outset the “almost completely successful attempt by modernity . . . to focus human minds on the future . . . a more or less successful program to downgrade history and render care about it as a sign of weakness”….