Gotham Diary:
At Age Twenty
27 June 2018

John Lanchester has a terrific piece in the current issue of the LRB, “After the Fall,” in which he appraises the aftermath of the Crash of 2008. I read it online (thanks to The Browser), but I still haven’t received the issue in print. Which may be why the thing that really sticks in my mind is this: 

Napoleon said something interesting: that to understand a person, you must understand what the world looked like when he was twenty. 

I don’t know which is more interesting, the remark itself or the fact that Napoleon is credited with it. Maybe godfathers and gangsters have a livelier respect for history than the rest of us.

When I was twenty, the world seemed to be dominated by an overconfident economic empire. Since everything was happening much faster than ever before, the obvious analogy to Rome at its height did not mean that we had centuries to play with.

Which I suppose supports (if it can’t prove) Napoleon’s point.

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