Science

Ruins and men

CIVILIZATION “All men have a secret attraction to ruins” wrote Chateaubriand in Le Génie du Christianisme. In a weighty work, where the density of reflection competes with erudition, archaeologist and historian Alain Schnapp, founder of the National Institute of Art History (Inah), in turn questions the ruins . Or rather think them. Because for the author, to think of ruins is to think of men as much as of civilizations. From the ruins of the Western world to those of pre-Columbian or Arab-Muslim civilizations; From the Western Middle Ages to the Far East, this beautiful book, the fruit of fifteen years of reflection, is the work of a lifetime. Why do ruins have such an attraction for us? Because there are no more men without memory than a society without ruins. Thus the view of the temple of Ta Prohm, in Angkor, in Cambodia, chosen on the cover, illustrates by the mass of trees which devour it, the indissoluble links existing between nature and the works of men, and therefore nature and culture. If there is no single definition of what a ruin is, Alain Schnapp endeavors to make us discover how much ruins exist only through the

look at them.

A universal history of ruins. From the origins to the Enlightenment, Alain Schnapp, Seuil, 711 p., € 49

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