Manjit Kumar

Clocking On

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time

By

Canongate 346pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

‘In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance,’ says Orson Welles, playing Harry Lime in The Third Man. ‘In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock!’ The last two sentences are among the few in the screenplay not written by Graham Greene. And they are not true: the cuckoo clock was first made in Germany, which has not enjoyed five centuries of democracy or peace. This is one of the many intriguing pieces of information in Simon Garfield’s idiosyncratic and fascinating book that considers the practical applications rather than the philosophical aspects of time.

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