Quotes By Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts

“И наистина, има нещо нелепо в това колективно покорство пред предписаните схеми на сонатата или на симфонията. Да си представим как великите симфонисти, включително Хайдн и Моцарт, Шуман и Брамс, след като са си поплакали в адажиото, в последната част се дегизират като малки ученици и през междучасието се втурват в двора, за да танцуват, да подскачат и да крещят колкото им глас държи, че всичко е добре, когато свършва добре. Това можем да наречем „глупостта на музиката”. Бетовен е разбрал, че единственият начин да се избегне тя, е да се придаде на композицията абсолютно индивидуален характер.

Това е първата точка от художествения му завет, валиден за всички изкуства и за всички творци, завет, който бих формулирал така: не трябва да се смята композицията (архитектурната организация на цялото) като вече съществуваща матрица, заета от автора, за да я напълни с това, което е сътворил; самата композиция трябва да бъде творение, творение, в което се съдържа цялата самобитност на автора.”


“Životopisci neznají sexuální život svých vlastních manželek, ale myslí si, že vÄ›dí vÅ¡echno o pohlavních tajemstvích Stendhala nebo Faulknera.”


“Brod was a brilliant intellectual with exceptional energy; a generous man willing to do battle for others; his attachment to Kafka was warm and disinterested. The only problem was his artistic orientation: a man of ideas, he knew nothing of the passion for form; his novels (he wrote twenty of them) are sadly conventional; and above all: he understood nothing at all about modern art.
Why, despite all this, was Kafka so fond of him? What about you-do you stop being fond of your best friend because he has a compulsion to write bad verse?”


“Not everything written on Kafka is Kafkology. How then to define Kafkology? By a tautology: Kafkology is discourse for Kafkologizing Kafka. For replacing Kafka with the Kafkologized Kafka.”


“Biographers know nothing about the intimate sex lives of their own wives, but they think they know all about Stendhal’s or Faulkner’s.”


“No one cares about the artist Kafka, who troubles us with his puzzling aesthetic, because we'd rather have Kafka as the fusion of experience and work, the Kafka who had a difficult relationship with his father and didn't know how to deal with women.”


“After Chopin's death, Polish patriots cut up his body to take out his heart. They nationalized this poor muscle and buried it in Poland.
A dead person is treated either as trash or as a symbol. Either way, it's the same disrespect to his vanished individuality.”


“Damn! What did Ansermet, that most faithful friend, know about Stravinsky's poverty of heart? What did he, that most devoted friend, know about Stravinsky's capacity to love? And where did he get his utter certainty that the heart is ethically superior to the brain? Are not vile acts committed as often with the heart's help as without it? Can't fanatics, with their bloody hands, boast of a high degree of "affective activity"? Will we ever be done with this imbecile sentimental Inquisition, the heart's Reign of Terror?”


“I say, indeed: "consolation in the nonsentience of nature." For nonsentience is consoling; the world of nonsentience is the world outside human life; it is eternity; "it is the sea gone off with the sun" (Rimbaud).”


“Through ecstasy, emotion reaches its climax, and thereby at the same time its negation (its oblivion).
Ecstasy means being "outside oneself," as indicated by the etymology of the Greek word: the act of leaving one's position (stasis). To be "outside oneself" does not mean outside the present moment, like a dreamer escaping into the past or the future. Just the opposite: ecstasy is absolute identity with the present instant, total forgetting of past and future. If we obliterate the future and the past, the present moment stands in empty space, outside life and its chronology, outside time and independent of it (this is why it can be likened to eternity, which too is the negation of time).
[...] Man desires eternity, but all he can get is its imitation: the instant of ecstasy.

[...] Living is a perpetual heavy effort not to lose sight of ourselves, to stay solidly present in ourselves, in our stasis. Step outside ourselves for a mere instant, and we verge on death's dominion.”


“a small nation resembles a big family and likes to describe itself that way. In the language of the smallest European people, in Icelandic, the term for "family" is fjölskylda; the etymology is eloquent: skylda means "obligation"; fjöl means "multiple." Family is thus "a multiple obligation." Icelanders have a single word for "family ties": fjölskyldubönd: "the cords (bönd) of multiple obligations." Thus in the big family that is a small country, the artist is bound in multiple ways, by multiple cords. When Nietzsche noisily savaged the German character, when Stendhal announced that he preferred Italy to his homeland, no German or Frenchman took offense; if a Greek or a Czech dared to say the same thing, his family would curse him as a detestable traitor.”


“an emigres artistic problem: the numerically equal blocks of a lifetime are unequal in weight, depending on whether they comprise young or adult years. The adult years may be richer and more important for life and for creative activity both, but the subconscious, memory, language, all the understructure of creativity, are formed very early; for a doctor, that won't make problems, but for a novelist or a composer, leaving the place to which his imagination, his obsessions, and thus his fundamental themes are bound could make for a kind of ripping apart. He must mobilize all his powers, all his artists wiles, to turn the disadvantages of that situation to benefits.

[...] Only returning to the native land after a long absence can reveal the substantial strangeness of the world and of existence.”


“It is precisely when their interior worlds change shape that Bezukhov and Bolkonsky are confirmed as individuals; that they surprise; that they make themselves different; that their freedom catches fire, and with it the identity of their selves; these are moments of poetry: they experience them with such intensity that the whole world rushes forward to meet them with an intoxicating parade of wondrous details. In Tolstoy, man is the more himself, the more an individual, when he has the strength, the imagination, the intelligence, to transform himself.
By contrast, the people I see changing their attitude toward Lenin, Europe, and so on expose their nonindividuality. This change is neither their own creation nor their own invention, not caprice or surprise or thought or madness; it has no poetry; it is nothing but a very prosaic adjustment to the changing spirit of History. That is why they don't even notice it; in the final analysis, they always stay the same: always in the right, always thinking what, in their milieu, a person is supposed to think; they change not in order to draw closer to some essential self but in order to merge with everyone else; changing lets them stay unchanged.
Another way of expressing it: they change their mind in accordance with the invisible tribunal that is also changing its mind; their change is thus simply a bet on what the tribunal will proclaim to be the truth tomorrow.”


“For a trial is initiated not to render justice but to annihilate the defendant.
Even when the trial is of dead people, the point is to kill them off a second time: by burning their books; by removing their names from the schoolbooks; by demolishing their monuments; by rechristening the streets that bore their names.”


“therein lies the power of culture: it redeems horror by transforming it into existential wisdom. If the spirit of the trial succeeds in annihilating this century's culture, nothing will remain of us but a memory of its atrocities sung by a chorus of children.”


“The ethic of ecstasy is the opposite of the trial's ethic; under its protection everybody does whatever he wants: now anyone can suck his thumb as he likes, from infancy to graduation, and it is a freedom no one will be willing to give up; look around you on the Metro; seated or standing, every single person has a finger in some orifice of his face-in the ear, in the mouth, in the nose; no one feels he's being observed, and everyone dreams of writing a book to tell about his unique and inimitable self, which is picking its nose; no one listens to anyone else, everyone writes, and each of them writes the way rock is danced to: alone, for himself, focused on himself yet making the same motions as all the others. In this situation of uniform egocentricity, the sense of guilt does not play the role it once did; the tribunals still operate, but they are fascinated exclusively by the past; they see only the core of the century; they see only the generations that are old or dead.”


“A moral do êxtase é contrária à do processo; debaixo da sua protecção toda a gente faz o que quer; já cada qual pode chuchar no dedo à vontade, desde a mais tenra infância até ao fim do liceu, e trata-se de uma liberdade a que ninguém estará disposto a renunciar; olhemos à nossa volta no metro; cada um entre todos, sentado, tem o dedo num dos orifícios do rosto; no ouvido, na boca, no nariz; nenhum se sente visto pelos outros e cada um pensa em escrever um livro em que possa dizer o seu inimitável e único eu que escarafuncha o nariz; ninguém ouve ninguém, toda a gente escreve e todos e cada um escrevem como se dança o rock: sozinho, para si mesmo, concentrado em si, e contudo fazendo os mesmos movimentos que os outros todos fazem.”


“When we study, discuss, analyze a reality, we analyze it as it appears in our mind, in our memory. We know reality only in the past tense. We do not know it as it is in the present, in the moment when it's happening, when it is. The present moment is unlike the memory of it. Remembering is not the negative of forgetting. Remembering is a form of forgetting.

[...] We die without knowing what we have lived.”


“Humor: the divine flash that reveals the world in its moral ambiguity and man in his profound incompetence to judge others; humor: the intoxicating relativity of human things; the strange pleasure that conies of the certainty that there is no certainty.
But humor, to recall Octavio Paz, is "the great invention of the modern spirit." It has not been with us forever, and it won't be with us forever either.
With a heavy heart, I imagine the day when Panurge no longer makes people laugh.”


“There is nothing harder to explain than humor.”