When-I-was-a-boy I was given a magic book. It was written by a man who wrote “when I was a boy” with hyphens between the words in order, as it didn't take me long to figure out, to poke gentle fun at the way that old folks like him talked to children. Yet I never felt that he was talking down to me. On the contrary, his occasional reminiscences of a happy and unremarkable childhood only made the magic comfortable when it might have been scary. For it was the story of the whole world from the time when, he told me, the earth was thrown out of the sun like a spark from a log fire until the Korean War, which, I was vaguely aware, had been going on during my lifetime.

History was a tale of almost uniformly disastrous wars between closed societies.

The magic book was called A Child’s History of the World and the magician’s name was V. M....

 
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