Zweig was one of Europe's greatest authors and is not read enough today. In his book, The World of Yesterday he says the following: "In its liberal idealism, the nineteenth century was honestly convinced that it was on the straight and unfailing path toward being the best of all worlds." Zweig discusses how idealistic notions of 'progress' overwhelmed deeper thinking about how to achieve even a limited set of goals. Sound familiar? "One began to believe more in this progress than in the bible, and its gospel appeared ultimate because of the daily new wonders of science and technology." Zweig's book should be required reading for those advocating an uncritical acceptance of the idea that all progress is good and that change comes from innovation without careful critical, social and historical framing.
The evolution of reading and the reality that reading today is governed by speed and not attention is a major challenge for informed intellectual and historical understanding. The same challenge applies to painting and the need to gaze for more than a few seconds at the works people see in galleries and museums. The problem is attention span and there is no greater issue for contemporary practices of literature and art than understanding how to maintain attention for a long enough time that perception, thought and insight can be given time to develop.