September 14, 2008

Engineers of Nation

Some experts call Walter Benjamin’s 1000-plus page magnum opus The Arcades Project (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard, 1999) quite simply one of the greatest 20th century efforts to comprehend “History”. Some even call this thick tome the greatest endeavour of all studies into one of the most fundamental perceptions in 2500 years of world development: a perception arising from awareness of the way the relationship between limited humanity and unlimited time dictates human life. This perception has become extremely influential in shaping world reality over the past three centuries.

Inspired by various sources, particularly Marcel Proust and Martin Heidegger, Rudolf Mrázek does something similar to Benjamin. Mrázek, an expert on modern Southeast Asian history who was born in the Czech Republic and later moved to America, achieves this in his latest book, currently being translated into Indonesian, Engineers of Happy Land: Technology and Nationalism in a Colony (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).

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