Paul Bryant's Reviews > Century

Century by Bruce Bernard
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's review
May 29, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: history-will-teach-us-nothing
Read in May, 2011

This enormous beast of a book, 1,117 pages long, consists of photos of everything that happened between the years 1899 and 1999 – a slight exaggeration, but it sure seems so. Each year is allotted between ten and twenty photos, and although I can’t claim total accuracy here, by my reckoning 78% of all these photos depict human misery in one form or another.

Leafing through this vast book, easily the heaviest out of the thousand or so I have in my possession, I tremble at the accumulation of the clear evidence that I, in my life, have been the recipient of great, undeserved, statistically unlikely, and almost unnoticed, good fortune. I’ve been so fantastically lucky. Why me? I was born well after all the great wars, in a country which had given up its empire and had no need to conscript its young men. My country had already created a cradle-to-grave welfare state – the great dreams of the socialists were everyday reality for me : free universal schooling (up to and including university – no student fees or loans for me), free (at the point of delivery) universal health care; a police force which is not allowed to arrest me arbitrarily, and one which is relatively free of corruption; a military which does not interfere with the democratic process; shops which refund goods! Insurance companies which pay up promptly! Streets paved! Electricity which never shuts off! Clean water! Almost no guns! Very few murders! Elections free and fair and no vote-rigging! Plentiful libraries! Even my job is (touch wood) secure (I think the clinical trial business is here to stay).

I have lived through all of this and taken it for granted – this is my country, this is my life, in other places things were different, I always knew that. But really, for 99.9% of all the human beings who have ever got themselves born on this spinning planet in this backwater of a minor galaxy out on the rim of what we consider to be the universe, it hasn’t been like that at all. No, not at all. These photos show what it has been like which is the opposite of the above list – revolution, massacre, assassination, drought, disease, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse clattering about the school playground.

I can’t say I recommend this extraordinary catalogue of how human beings can fuck up each other so brilliantly well there ought to be a medal for it, but if you want a visceral violent fast-acting no-punches-pulled photographic history of the psychopathic 20th century, this is it. You will be devastated.

Note : If you buy it from a shop you will need a strong friend with you.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Trish (new)

Trish Thank you for that. Gratitude for being lucky always goes down well.

message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim It's good to be born at the top of the food chain, more or less...

message 3: by Fayley (new)

Fayley I just had a rat of a day in my well paid secure temperature controlled harassment free parent friendly workplace and was feeling sorry for myself. Consider my butt well kicked. Many thanks.

Paul Bryant my pleasure Fayley.... er, that don't sound right.

message 5: by Trish (new)

Trish Paul wrote: "my pleasure Fayley.... er, that don't sound right."

Heh, heh.

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