Sunday, February 17, 2008

Without Mercy or Relief

From Jules Verne's Paris in the Twentieth Century:

What would one of our ancestors have said upon seeing these boulevards lit as brightly as by the sun, these thousand carriages circulating noiselessly on the silent asphalt of the streets, these stores as sumptuous as palaces, from which the light spread in brilliant patches, these avenues as broad as squares, these squares as wide as plains, these enormous hotels, which provided comfortable lodging for twenty thousand travelers, these wonderfully light viaducts, these long, elegant galleries, these bridges flung from street to street, and finally these glittering trains, which seemed to furrow the air with fantastic speed?

No doubt he would have been astonished; but the men of 1960 were no longer lost in admiration of such marvels; they exploited them quite calmly, without being any the happier, for, from their hurried gait, their peremptory manner, their American "dash," it was apparent that the demon of wealth impelled them onward without mercy or relief.

Jules Verne, Paris in the Twentieth Century, Richard Howard, tr. Ballantine (New York: 1996) p. 26. Keep in mind that Verne's vision of the future was written in 1863.

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