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I know this isn't very much to go on, but - I read this short story or novelette in the 1960s, but it was definitely published during the 1940s, specifically the World War Two period. I can't remember if it was in a magazine or an anthology; all I know is that it was definitely not the place of the story's original publication. The story involves a World War Two-era American who is somehow transported to the far future; there he meets a scientist and has an adventure. In the course of the story the MC asks the scientist who won the war. The scientist says "There were so many world wars in the 20th Century you can't expect me to keep them all straight," or words to that effect. The only other detail I can remember is that wand-like disintegrators were used.

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I think this is probably the novella Barrier by Anthony Boucher.

The protagonist is John Brent and he is sent 500 years into the future in an experiment. The story starts:

The first difficulty was with language.

That is only to be expected when you jump five hundred-years, but it is nonetheless perplexing to have your first casual query of: “What city is this?” answered by the sentence: “Stappers will get you. Or be you Slanduch?”

Where Stappers turns out to be the Gestapo. The conversation you remember is:

I asked Alex—and I must confess almost fearfully— “Then did Germany win the war?”

He not unnaturally countered with, “Which war?”

“The Second World War. Started in 1939”

“Second?” Alex paused. “Oh, yes. Stephen once telled me that they—you used to have numbers for wars before historians simply called 1900’s Century of Wars. But as to who winned which ... who remembers?

I read it in the collection 6 Great Short Novels of Science Fiction.

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    Of course the 1942 Astounding with that story is available at the Internet Archive. I have it in this anthology.
    – user14111
    Sep 26, 2021 at 8:11
  • I've been trying to remember this for years! I remember the bit where he meets an elderly woman, who recognises him; although he doesn't know her, then on another trip he has a love affair with a younger girl, who he later realises was the elderly woman he first met.
    – sueelleker
    Sep 26, 2021 at 9:03
  • @sueelleker If you had posted that here as a story-ID question, somebody would surely have answered you, probably John Rennie. Any other stories you're trying to remember?
    – user14111
    Sep 26, 2021 at 9:30
  • Thank you @JohnRennie, that remark about world wars was just teasing my memory Sep 26, 2021 at 11:31
  • Thank you very much for the answer - I didn't expect one, considering how little info I presented! Sep 26, 2021 at 22:10

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