The Earth Abides

Another recourse to history…

Backyard and Beyond

sunsetAt the end of Emile Zola’s 1890 novel, La Bête Humaine, a train full of soldiers hurls along the rails into Paris. There’s no one is control of the thing, for, after much madness and jealousy, the engineer and the fireman have killed each other. The doomed train is Zola’s vision of technology going berserk. The human beast has unleashed the mechanical beast. We might think it quaint now, but the train engines of the day were the triumph of industrial capitalism, shrinking distance and time, knitting entire continents together. And they were coal-powered, burning through the remains of ancient life, releasing carbon into the air. Zola draws the curtain before the terrible wreck, the wreck, as he saw it, of the Franco-Prussian War, but surely that was only an opening act for the wreck of the 20th century.

This image has not left my head in the 20-plus…

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