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The return of the aphorism

The aphorism is ideally suited to our age but strangely neglected

By Simon May   November 1999

Nothing typifies our age more than the sound-bite: the one-liner which describes, prescribes, questions, quotes, announces, points or mocks. Like the “sight-bite,” the arresting image which conjures up worlds without actually depicting them, it is found in politics, advertising, art, the media, and generally in the contemporary penchant for the eclectic, the fleeting, the gestural.

Our love affair with the fragmentary, has, we suppose, uniquely modern reasons: the need to cope with and be noticed, amid ever-shorter attention spans and ever-proliferating voices, choices and data. Also, our epoch has repudiated anything, outside natural science, that aims to be systematic, total,…

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