Favourite passages: Sally Rooney – Normal People (2018)

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“Marianne had a wildness that got into him for a while and made him feel that he was like her, that they had the same unnameable spiritual injury, and that neither of them could ever fit into the world.”

“So many things pass secretly between people anyway. What kind of person would he be if it happened now? Someone very different? Or exactly the same person, himself, with no difference at all.”

“He does have immaculate taste. He’s sensitive to the most minuscule of aesthetic failures, in painting, in cinema, Continue reading

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Excerpts from Herman Hesse’s “Narcissus and Goldmund” (1930)

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“And so,” he concluded violently, “what is this world in which we are made to live? Is it not hell? Is it not revolting and disgusting?”

“Certainly, that’s how the world is.”

“Ah!” Goldmund cried with indignation. “And how often you told me that the world was divine, that it was a great harmony of circles with the Creator enthroned in its midst, that what existed was good, and so forth. You told me Aristotle had said so, or Saint Thomas. I’m eager to hear you explain the contradiction.”

Narcissus laughed. “Your memory is surprising, and yet it has deceived you slightly. I have always adored our Creator as perfect, but never his creation. I have never denied the evil in the world. No true thinker has ever affirmed that life on earth is harmonious and just, or that man is good, my dear friend. On the contrary. The Holy Bible expressly states that the strivings and doings of man’s heart are evil, and every day we see this confirmed anew.”

“Very good. At last I see what you learned men mean. So man is evil, and life on earth is full of ugliness and trickery—you admit it. But somewhere behind all that, in your thoughts and books, justice and perfection exist. They exist, they can be proved, but only if they are never put to use.”

“You have stored up a great deal of anger against us theologians, dear friend! But you have still not become a thinker; you’ve got it all topsy-turvy. You still have a few things to learn. But why do you say we don’t put justice to use? We do that every day, every hour. I, for instance, am an abbot and I govern a cloister. Continue reading

Marx’s Capital (Vol. 1, 1867)

“In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific enquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains. The peculiar nature of the material it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest.”

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On the Creeping Return of Stalinism

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Aleksandr Yakovlev, the “Godfather of glasnost,” in a speech in 1990:

“[Gorbachev’s decrees rehabilitating victims of terror from 1920-50s] are in my view acts of repentance. When we say that we are rehabilitating someone, as if we are mercifully forgiving him for the sins of the past, this smells of cunning and hypocrisy. We are not forgiving him. We are forgiving ourselves. It is we who are to blame that others lived for years both slandered and oppressed. It is we who are rehabilitating ourselves, not those who held other thoughts and convictions. They only wanted good and freedom for us, and the leadership of the country answered with evil, prisons and camps.

As we breathe the air of freedom, it is already becoming difficult today for us to remember what happened in the distant and not so distant past. There were hundreds of thousands of brutal trials, people who were shot and killed, people who killed themselves, people who did not even know what they were charged with, but who were destroyed…

For us, they are not a reproach but a harsh reminder to all those who still have a yearning nostalgia for the past, for those who would turn everything back to the fear… I want to pay special attention to the tragic fate of our peasantry, which paid the price in blood for the criminality of the Stalinist regime. This is not only an unprecedented reprisal against the peasantry, which disrupted the flow of the society, but it also brought the development of the state into crisis. History has never known such a concentrated hatred toward man.”

from David Remnick, Lenin’s Tomb (1994)