The Future of the Past

Alexander Stille

Picador

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A fascinating tour of the past as it exists today, and of the dangers that threaten it, through incisive portraits of our attempts to maintain it: the high-tech struggles to save the Great Sphinx and the Ganges; the efforts to preserve Latin within the Vatican; the digital glut inside the National Archives, which may have caused more information to be lost than ever before; and an oral culture threatened by a “new” technology: writing itself. Stille explores not simply the past, but our ideas about the past—and how they will have to change if our past is to have a future.

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Book Excerpts

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THE FUTURE OF THE PAST
1The Sphinx--Virtual and RealSITTING AT A computer terminal in Santa Monica, California, I watched the Great Sphinx of Giza take shape before my eyes as a scholar's careful measurements were transformed into an elaborate wire-frame model, then grew a "skin" that showed not the half ruined statue that now lies in the sands of Egypt but the Sphinx as it may have looked at the time of its creation forty-five hundred years ago, with its nose, royal beard, and headdress intact.Just a few miles away at the Getty Conservation Institute in Marina Del Rey, technicians have compiled

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Reviews

Praise for The Future of the Past

“An exhilaratingly panoramic, inescapably poignant snapshot of a world poised in a Janus moment, where technology is both bane and savior of the past and present.” —Newsday (New York)

“A smart and engaging work...[by] a clean, clear writer... His ideas are anchored in the tangible and...you can take your pick of the strong essays in The Future of the Past.” —The New York Times Book Review

“This book is worth reading for its chapter on the Sphinx alone.” —Harper’s Magazine

“Illuminating and engrossing...a fresh, lively, and ultimately wrenching display of a world transforming itself irrevocably.” —The New York Observer

“Fascinating...deftly written, keenly observed.” —The New York Times

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About the Author

Alexander Stille

Alexander Stille is the author of Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic and Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and lives in New York City.

Alexander Stille

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Available Formats and Book Details

The Future of the Past
Alexander Stille

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Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
April 2003
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312420949
ISBN10: 0312420943
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 368 pages
$19.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
April 2003
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466817098
ISBN10: 1466817097
368 pages
$7.99
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From The Publisher

Picador

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