In Praise of Forgetting

David Rieff

27/02/2017 7:00 pm
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David Rieff poses hard questions about whether remembrance has – or indeed ever could – inoculate the present against repeating the crimes of the past. Collective remembrance can be toxic, he argues, and sometimes it may be more moral to forget.
Ranging widely across some of the defining horrors of modern times – the Irish Troubles, the white settlement of Australia, the American Civil War, the Balkan Wars, the Holocaust and 9/11 – Rieff presents a pellucid examination of the uses and abuses of historical memory. His contentious, brilliant and elegant essay In Praise of Forgetting is an indispensable work of moral philosophy. David Rieff is challenged by historian Simon Schama.

David Rieff

David Rieff is the author of many books including, most recently, The Reproach of Hunger: Food, Justice and Money in the 21st Century. He lives in New York City.

Simon Schama


Sir Simon Schama, CBE is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and a Contributing Editor of the Financial Times. He is the author of nineteen books and the writer-presenter of fifty documentaries on art, history and literature for BBC2. His art criticism for The New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for criticism in 1996; his film on Bernini from The Power of Art won an Emmy in 2007 and his series on British history and The American Future: a History, Broadcast Critics Guild awards. He won the NCR non-fiction prize for Citizens, National Book Critics Circle award for Rough Crossings, the WH Smith Literary Award for Landscape and Memory. In 2015 he received the Premio Antonio Feltrinelli in historical sciences from the Accademia nazionale dei Lincei in Rome. His The Story of the Jews: Finding the Wordswas published in 2015 and the second volume Belongingin 2017. In the autumn of 2016, The Face of Britain, a history of British portraiture appeared as a five-part BBC television series; a book and an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. In 2018, Civilizations, a nine-part BBC television series on world art, of which he wrote and presented five. In May 2019,Wordy: Sounding off on high art, low appetite and the power of memory, was published. His latest television series, The Romantics and Us, is currently airing on the BBC. 

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