…when I see men that creep about over an atom, the earth, which is simply a dot in the universe, propose themselves as models of Providence, I do not know how to reconcile such extravagance with such insignificance.
There is a cheap literature that speaks to us of the need of escape. It is true that when we travel we are in search of distance. But distance is not to be found. It melts away. And escape has never led anywhere. The moment a man finds that he must play the races, go the Arctic, or make war in order to feel himself alive, that man has begun to spin the strands that bind him to other men and to the world. But what wretched strands! A civilisation that is really strong fills man to the brim, though he never stir. What are we worth when motionless, is the question.
Hay una mala literatura que nos ha hablado de la necesidad de evasión. Por supuesto, uno emprende viaje en busca de extensión; pero la extensión no se encuentra, se funda; y la evasión nunca lleva a ninguna parte.
Cuando el hombre, para sentirse hombre, tiene necesidad de correr carreras, de cantar en coro, de hacer la guerra, se impone lazos para anudarse al otro y al mundo. ¡Pero qué pobres lazos! Si una civilización es grande, colma al hombre, aunque éste permanezca inmóvil.
En este pueblecito silencioso, bajo el gris de un día de lluvia, diviso una inválida recluida que medita junto a su ventana. ¿Quién es? ¿Qué han hecho de ella? Yo juzgaría la civilización del pueblecito por la densidad de esta presencia. ¿Qué valemos, una vez inmóviles?
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras/ Piloto de guerra)
And then England – southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world. It is difficult when you pass that way, especially when you are peacefully recovering from seasickness with the plush cushions of a boat-train carriage underneath you, to believe that anything is really happening anywhere. Earthquakes in Japan, famines in China, revolutions in Mexico? Don’t worry, the milk will be on the doorstep tomorrow morning, the New Statesman will come out on Friday.
(George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia)
Y luego Inglaterra, el sur de Inglaterra, probablemente el paisaje más acicalado del mundo. Cuando se pasa por allí, en especial mientras uno va recuperándose del mareo anterior, cómodamente sentado sobre los blandos almohadones del tren de enlace con el barco, resulta difícil creer que realmente ocurre algo en alguna parte. ¿Terremotos en Japón, hambrunas en China, revoluciones en México? No hay por qué preocuparse, la leche estará en el umbral de la puerta mañana temprano y el New Statesman saldrá el viernes.
France is not an abstract deity. France is not a history textbook. France is not some ideology. France is the flesh that sustains me, a network of connections that rules me, a collection of axes that are the foundation of my affections. That’s why I need those to whom I’m attached to outlast me. To be oriented, I need them to exist. Otherwise, how would I know where or what to return to?
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Introduction to 33 Days)
…the historian, not even the history philosopher, no, just the academic, a drone as big as a man, working his life away in archives and monastery libraries which he leaves briefly once every so many years to announce, with modest jubilation, the discovery of another piece of the puzzle hitherto missing, a piece that expands the puzzle even further.
Today’s quote is one of the favourite quotes of the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges. It’s attributed to William Henry Hudson, a naturalist and writer of American origins, who was born in Argentina, then lived and died in England.
La cita de hoy es uno de las citas favoritas del autor argentino Jorge Luis Borges. Es atribuido a William Henry Hudson, también conocido como Guillermo Enrique Hudson, un naturalista y escritor de origen norteamericano, quien fue nacido en Argentína, y luego vivió y murió en Inglaterra.
Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:
I undertook the study of metaphysics many times but happiness always interrupted me.
Varias veces intenté el estudio de la metafísica, pero siempre me interrumpió la felicidad.
(Attributed to / Atribuido a William Henry Hudson)
He who is different from me does not impoverish me – he enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves – in Man… For no man seeks to hear his own echo, or to find his reflection in the glass.
El que es diferente de mí no me empobrece, sino que me enriquece. Nuestra unidad se basa en algo superior a nosotros mismos, en el Hombre… Pues ningún hombre quiere escuchar su propio eco o verse reflejado en un cristal.
There is an old route of pilgrimage, or rather I should say several routes, leading to the town of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Northern Spain. It is known as the Camino de Santiago, St James’s Way, and it is actually a whole network of routes starting in various parts of Spain; the most popular and famous remains the camino francés, the French Way, which starts in France and climbs over the Pyrenees before traverses Northern Spain. The Camino continues to be a very popular walking route and not just for religious pilgrims.
If you complete the walk, at the end you can obtain a certificate, as you can read in today’s quote below by Dutch author, Cees Nooteboom.
Quote of the Week:
Everyone who had completed the journey on foot or on a bicycle, could, if they wished, obtain a rubber-stamped document from him and have their names registered in the great book. “Many times people burst into tears right here,” he had told me, pointing in front of his desk. He had shown me the ledger, too, a sort of account book, written in longhand.
He had turned the pages until he spotted a Dutchman, a chemistry teacher, “not a believer”, motive: “thinking”.
He had appreciated that, he said, people came up with the oddest motives, but “thinking” was seldom among them.
Today’s quote by Joseph Roth takes us back to the times before the Great War – times which, when I was growing up, were still habitually referred to by the oldest generation as ‘those happy times of peace’. Not that any of them actually could remember those times – theirs would have been the generation born during or immediately after the Great War. Roth on the other hand was born in 1894 and wrote these lines – oozing nostalgia – in 1932. Enjoy!
Quote of the Week:
Back then, before the Great War, when the incidents reported on these pages took place, it was not yet a matter of indifference whether a person lived or died. If a life was snuffed out from the host of the living, another life did not instantly replace it and make people forget the deceased. Instead, a gap remained where he had been, and both the near and distant witnesses of his demise fell silent whenever they saw this gap.
If a fire devoured a house in a row of houses in a street, the charred site remained empty for a long time. For the bricklayers worked slowly and leisurely, and when the closest neighbours as well as casual passersby looked at the empty lot, they remembered the shape and the walls of the vanished house.
That was how things were back then. Anything that grew took its time growing, and anything that perished took a long time to be forgotten. But everything that had once existed left its traces, and people lived on memories just as they now live on the ability to forget quickly and emphatically.
… a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong – acting the part of a good man or a bad.
…For wherever a man’s place is, whether the place he has chosen or that where he has been placed by a commander, there he ought to remain in the hour of danger; he should not think of death or of anything, but of disgrace.
La cita de la semana
A este hombre le daré una respuesta muy decisiva, y le diré que se engaña mucho al creer que un hombre de valor tome en cuenta Ios peligros de la vida ó de la muerte. Lo único que debe mirar en todos sus procederes es ver si lo que hace es justo ó injusto, si es acción de un hombre de bien ó de un malvado.
…todo hombre que ha escogido un puesto que ha creído honroso, ó que ha sido colocado en él por sus superiores, debe mantenerse firme, y no debe temer ni la muerte, ni lo que haya de más terrible, anteponiendo á todo el honor.
There exist certain similarities between the Spanish and the Dutch character.
The landscape of La Mancha dotted with windmills is no more rigorously divided into heaven and earth than the Dutch polder. It is an extreme division, unmitigated by temptations, valleys, romantic corners. Most of the meseta is as hard for a man to hide in as the flatlands of the Netherlands. A man is always visible between heaven and earth, silhouetted against the sky, and sometimes I think this has something to do with the extremism that characterises both Holland’s Calvinism and Spain’s Catholicism.
(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)
Existen ciertas similitudes entre el carácter español y el holandés.
El paisaje de La Mancha salpicado de molinos de viento no está más rigurosamente dividido en cielo y tierra que el pólder holandés. Es una división extrema, no mitigada por las tentaciones, los valles, los rincones románticos. En la mayoría de la meseta es tan difícil para un hombre ocultarse como en las llanuras de los Países Bajos. Un hombre siempre es visible entre el cielo y la tierra, recortada contra el cielo, y a veces creo que este tiene algo que ver con el extremismo que caracteriza tanto al calvinismo de Holanda como al catolicismo de España.
While they were preparing the hemlock, Socrates was learning how to play a new tune of the flute.
“What will be the use of that?” he was asked.
“To know this tune before dying.”
If I dare to repeat this reply long since trivialised by the handbooks, it is because it seems to me the sole serious justification of any desire to know, whether exercised on the brink of death or at any other moment of existence.