The future imagination

Berlin Streetcar“The horse-drawn tram has vanished, and so will the trolley, and some eccentric Berlin writer in the twenties of the twenty-first century, wishing to portray our time, will go to a museum of technological history and locate a hundred-year-old streetcar, yellow, uncouth, with old-fashioned curved seats, and in a museum of old costumes dig up a black, shiny-buttoned conductor’s uniform. Then he will go home and compile a description of Berlin streets in bygone days. Everything, every trifle, will be valuable and meaningful: the conductor’s purse, the advertisement over the window, that peculiar jolting motion which our great-grandchildren will perhaps imagine–everything will be ennobled and justified by its age.

“I think that here lies the sense of literary creation: to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mirrors of future times; to find in the objects around us the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will discern and appreciate in the far-off times when every trifle of our plain everyday life will become exquisite and festive in its own right: the times when a man who might put on the most ordinary jacket of today will be dressed up for an elegant masquerade.”

– Vladimir Nabokov, “A Guide to Berlin,” 1925

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One Comment

  1. Posted 2/6/2007 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Love that quote.

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