Monumental

From Tim Parks’ “Europa

“I reflected, leaning against a post forbidding parking, that every major monument in Europe is now cleaned and floodlit. Everything ancient and medieval has been appropriately sandblasted, cleaned and illuminated. It is impossible even to imagine these stony martyrs being in the gloom now, impossible to imagine these angels and gargoyles in a dark wind or under moonlight. Impossible to see them as part of our lives, our nightmares, potent in the gloom, sacred in darkness or starlight. These monuments have been neutralized by the light, I thought, by the light and by carefully researched detergents. They have been made part of the modern city. They have been subtracted from us and made possible for us. Squares where people hanged and lynched and guillotined each other and, in general, committed all sorts of irremediable crimes, are now attractive areas of floodlit public art, I thought, emptied of their potency precisely by the zeal with which we have focused on them, cared for them, illuminated them, absorbed them into the on-off neon of our intermittent modern night.”