French postmodernism may be passing, but it had a point. Even if engagement with the world is the cure, the respite it gives may be short-lived. No sooner has the real moment gone than the work of memory begins, once more selecting, massaging, suppressing and spinning. That moment is like a glimpse of the naked king, or the politician’s one-day dash into the war zone: it may be a glimpse of truth, but even if we are honest enough to see anything we do not want to see, that in turn may just reinvigorate the work of disguise. That can’t have been the real Louis XIV, or the real Iraq. And heaven forfend that people see them like that—otherwise it might really destroy our legacy, or at any rate the bit that counts: its representation in self-image, story and picture.
more from Prospect Magazine here.