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People crave silence, yet are unnerved by it

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Please switch off your mobile phones

A History of Silence. By Alain Corbin. Translated by Jean Birrell. Polity; 147 pages; $19.95 and £14.99.

Silence: In the Age of Noise. By Erling Kagge. Translated by Becky Crook. Pantheon; 160 pages; $19.95. Viking; £9.99

A THEME of the age, at least in the developed world, is that people crave silence and can find none. The roar of traffic, the ceaseless beep of phones, digital announcements in buses and trains, TV sets blaring even in empty offices, are an endless battery and distraction. The human race is exhausting itself with noise and longs for its opposite—whether in the wilds, on the wide ocean or in some retreat dedicated to stillness and concentration. Alain Corbin, a history professor, writes from his refuge in the Sorbonne, and Erling Kagge, a Norwegian explorer, from his memories of the wastes of Antarctica, where both have tried to…Continue reading

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