Monday, March 31, 2014

A Woman In Berlin, 5

I asked her if she knew what was going on with their bookstore. "It burned down at the end of April," she answered tersely. Nevertheless she is pretty optimistic about the future and told me about a huge crate of books in the basement that she managed to keep safe throughout the Third Reich -- mostly 'forbidden' literature [...] At first this meant texts by Jews and emigrants, later by opponents of the war. "People have a craving for these things right now," she claims. "We're going to wall off a corner of the store and start a lending library -- with a stiff deposit on the books, of course, or else they'll be gone in no time." I told her I'd be the first to sign up; I have a lot of catching up to do. 
Tuesday May 22 1945

Saturday, March 29, 2014

If no one understands it

"It might work if no one understands it, which is what the elites are hoping."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The newspeak of our world

When a French leftist student told me with a sincere glow in his eyes that the Gulag was a tax paid for the ideals of socialism and that Solzhenitsyn is just a personally embittered man, he cast me into a deep gloom. Is Europe really incapable of learning from its own history? Can't that dear lad ever understand that even the most promising project of 'general well-being' convicts itself of inhumanity the moment it demands a single involuntary death -- that is, one which is not a conscious sacrifice of a life to its meaning? [...] Did the newspeak of our world so penetrate natural human speech that two people can no longer communicate even such a basic experience? [...]
It seems to me that all of us, East and West, face one fundamental task from which all else should follow. That task is one of resisting vigilantly, thoughtfully and attentively, but at the same time with total dedication, at every step and everywhere, the irrational momentum of anonymous, impersonal and inhuman power --  the power of ideologies, systems, apparat, bureaucracy, artificial languages and political slogans.

Václav Havel, Politics & Conscience 
Prague, February 1984

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ave Caesar

No bitterness: our ancestors did it.
They were only ignorant and hopeful, they wanted freedom but wealth too.
Their children will learn to hope for a Caesar.
Or rather--for we are not aquiline Romans but soft mixed colonists--
Some kindly Sicilian tyrant who'll keep
Poverty and Carthage off until the Romans arrive,
We are easy to manage, a gregarious people,
Full of sentiment, clever at mechanics, and we love our luxuries. 

--Robinson Jeffers