The upward-curving line

Danish. In a review of a new Danish translation of Orosius’s fifth-century masterpiece, History Against the Pagans, I look at the templates we use to make sense of our history, shaping the flow of the past to give it a meaning and direction—templates like the circle, the pendulum, the ladder, and the downward slope. The template that Orosius pioneered with groundbreaking conviction remains the most prevalent today: a smoothly upward-curving line. In Orosius’s Christian retelling of universal history, we find the massively influential proposition that, however slowly and unevenly, the world is getting better year by year.

“Jamreoptimisten fra Braga” (“The pessoptimist from Braga”), Weekendavisen (June 2021).

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