Some quotes: a personal selection

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While I find most of what I know of Bertold Brecht's work, and about his life, not very appealing, some of his stories about Herr Keuner express – with a nice touch of irony – things I have felt myself. A man who had not seen Herr K for a long time greeted him by saying: "You have not changed at all." – "Oh!" said Herr K, turning pale.

An acquaintance of his was accused of taking an unfriendly attitude towards Herr K. "Yes," Herr K defended that person, "but only behind my back."

"What are you working on?" Herr K was asked. Herr K replied: "I am making quite an effort, I am carefully preparing my next mistake."

Personally quite relevant – at some times in my life more than at others – has been the following brief line, (even if in the novel from which it comes it is only a joking distortion of a well-known adage, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"): 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.
Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, 77.

A brief passage from a long poem by Walt Whitman, of whose writing I don't know much, e-mailed to me by a friend (KY.) Although I do not share Whitman's sentiments about animals, about humans I do have similar feelings to the ones he seems to be expressing here ...
I think I could turn to live with animals, they're so placid and self-contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

from Leaves of Grass, Song of Myself, 32.

Afri The next few quotes are related to Africa: the first is a poem which I found in a guidebook about Kenya; the second is from the introduction Doris Lessing, herself an 'exile', wrote for a collection of her short stories, This Was the Old Chief's Country; and the third is from a story, "Home, Sweet Home", by Ken Saro-Wiwa. Imperialism's Presence  by Pheoze Nowrejee

It is true there is no killing in the countryside,
And no one carries passes.
Not settlers embody a visible tyranny,
And the flags that fly, we chose.
True that the contracts we sign are willing,
The prices, we get, agreed.
Who can say this is a minor oppression?

And while the cruelties of the white man towards the black man are among the heaviest counts in the indictment against humanity, colour prejudice is not our original fault, but only one aspect of the atrophy of the imagination that prevents us from seeing ourselves in every creature that breathes under the sun.

I believe that the chief gift from Africa to writers, white and black, is the continent itself. ... That is not a place to visit unless one chooses to be an exile ever afterwards from an inexplicable majestic silence lying just over the border of memory or of thought. Africa gives you the knowledge that man is a small creature, among other creatures, in a large landscape.

I [– the narrator returning to her home village –] felt then that excruciating pain which knowledge confers on those who can discern the gulf that divides what is and what could be.

In the film The Last Emperor, 1987, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, the young Chinese Emperor asks his British tutor, played by Peter O'Toole, why he is always so finicky, so particular about his language; in response to which the tutor answers – or quotes? – something like: If I don't say precisely what I mean, how can I mean what I say?

And in the film Betty Blue, which I did not actually like very much, the main character at one point finds himself pushed up against a shelf of tins by the attractive nymphomaniac wife of the keeper of the local shop. When she whispers to him in a seductive, husky voice: "But don't you desire me?", he says after a brief pause: Desire you? Yes, I probably do. But I don't always give in to my desires: that's what makes me free.

Finally, from the oratorio A Child of Our Time, 1944, the moving musical response of Sir Michael Tippet to man's inhumanity which came to a climax – "The world turns on its dark side. It is winter." – in Germany and World War II: I would know my shadow and my light,
so shall I at last be whole.
Then courage, brother, dare the grave passage.
Here is no final grieving, but an abiding hope.
The moving waters renew the earth.
It is spring.

But enough; perhaps one should not get too personal on one's home-page, which is after all a public document ...

Click here if you want to 'cheat' and see all the quotes, anecdotes, jokes, facts, &c. that take their hourly turn on the main page of the site.

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