chapter  8
18 Pages

Crime Between History and Natural History


We might begin-in setting out some of the relays between crime and malady in a modern society-with Bertolt Brecht’s dictum that “human beings learn no more from catastrophe than a laboratory rabbit learns about biology.” The immediate fi eld of reference for Brecht’s remark is, of course, the catastrophic violence of World Wars I and II. But I take the reference from the German writer W. G. Sebald’s extended reconsiderations of what he calls “the natural history of destruction,” centered on the obliterating air war over Germany. This is an account of a total destruction that, for Sebald, takes place “between history and natural history.”1