Fifty-three Minutes

Quote of the Week:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

“Good morning,” said the little prince.

”Good Morning,” said the salesclerk. This was a salesclerk who sold pills invented to quench thirst. Swallow one a week and you no longer feel any need to drink.

“Why do you sell these pills?”

“They save so much time,” the salesclerk said. “Experts have calculated that you can save fifty-three minutes a week.”

“And what do you do with those fifty-three minutes?”

“Whatever you like.”

“If I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked,” the little prince said to himself, “I’d walk very slowly toward a water fountain…”

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The Little Prince)

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In the Desert

Quote of the Week:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The Little Prince)

The Seed of Resistance

Quote of the Week:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

Life always bursts the boundaries of formulas. Defeat may prove to have been the only path to resurrection, despite its ugliness. I take it for granted that to create a tree I condemn a seed to rot. If the first act of resistance comes too late it is doomed to defeat. But it is, nevertheless, the awakening of resistance. Life may grow from it as from a seed.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras)

 

The Enemy III (The Power of Life and Death)

We’ll remember the Exodus, the flight of many millions of French civilians from the advancing German army in June 1040, with another quote from Léon Werth’s book 33 Days.  (For the previous two quotes, please see the links below.)

Quote of the Week:

Léon Werth, 1878-1955

Behind this soldier is the entire might of the Reich, and the eyes of German soldiers are “full of victory,” as a peasant said to me. I’m obsessed by the idea that between this soldier and myself there is no man-to-man relationship or any relation determined by the laws and customs of a common country. There’s only the law of war, which is nothing but utility and caprice. Between him and me, it is understood that he has the power of life or death.

(Léon Werth: 33 Days)

 

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The Enemy II (They Enter Whenever They Like)

A few weeks ago, we had a quote from Léon Werth’s book 33 Days. The author was French, and a friend of Antoine de St-Exupéry who not only dedicated The Little Prince to him, but also wrote the foreword to 33 Days.

33 Days tells the author’s experiences in the so called Exodus, the great flight of many million French civilians from the advancing German army in June 1940.

It’s a book close to my heart because Léon Werth’s description of what it was like to live under occupation tallies with what my grandmother told me about living under first German, then Russian occupation in World War II. (Although my grandmother had much more horrific stories to tell of the vulnerability of civilians – and especially that of women – than what you can read in 33 Days.)

Quote of the Week:

Léon Werth, 1878-1955

I don’t need a dictionary to describe the difference between force and authority. I’m nothing more than a member of a captive tribe.

They’re next to us, up against us and all around us. They’re outside the house and inside the house, which they enter whenever they like.

(Léon Werth: 33 Days)

 

The Enemy

Quote of the Week:

Léon Werth, 1878-1955

At the door of the town hall-schoolhouse, a German officer politely makes way for my wife. He hesitates, then suddenly says in passable French, “You are afraid of us, madame?”

“Afraid? No, monsieur. But as long as you wear that suit (she points at his uniform) here, you are my enemy.”

(Léon Werth: 33 Days)

 

He Who Is Different From Me (El que es diferente de mí)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

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.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras) 


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.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Piloto de guerra)

Carnival of Light

Quote of the Week:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Toulouse in 1933 [public domain]

I had been looking on at a carnival of light. The ceiling had risen little by little and I had been unaware of an intervening space between the clouds and me. I had been zigzagging along a line of flight dotted by ground batteries. Their tracer bullets had been spraying the air with wheat-coloured shafts of light. I had forgotten that at the top of their flight the shells of those batteries must burst. And now, raising my head, I saw around and before me those rivets of smoke and steel driven into the sky in the pattern of towering pyramids.

I was quite aware that those rivets were no sooner driven than all danger went out of them, that each of those puffs possessed the power of life and death only for a fraction of a second.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras)

Silence in the Desert

Sahara Desert, Morocco. Photo by flowcomm via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Quote of the Week:

There is the silence of peace, when the tribes are reconciled, when the evening cool returns and it seems as if you were putting in, sails furled, at a quiet harbour.

There’s silence at noon, when the sun suspends all thought and movement.

There’s a false silence when the north wind flags and insects appear, ripped away from oases in the interior like pollen, presaging a sandstorm from the east.

There’s the silence of brewing plots, when you know that some distant tribe is simmering.

There’s a mysterious silence when the Arabs gather for their indecipherable confabulations.

There’s a tense silence when a messenger is late returning.

An acute silence when, at night, you hold your breath to listen.

A melancholy silence if you’re remembering someone you love.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Introduction to 33 Days)

Exodus (Éxodo)

France, June 1940:

An estimated 10 million people, including up to 80% of the population of Paris, fled south from the German advance to seek safety beyond the River Loire in what became known in history as l’Exode – the Exodus.

Francia, junio 1940:

Se estima que 10 millones de personas, incluido hasta el 80% de la población de París, huyeron hacia el sur del avance alemán para buscar la seguridad más allá del río Loira en lo que se conoció en la historia como l’Exode: el Éxodo.

Continue reading “Exodus (Éxodo)”

Quote of the Week: What War?

Today’s quote is longer than usual: it’s an excerpt from Flight to Arras, a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and it captures the utter exhaustion of a squadron of French pilots during the German offensive on France in June 1940.

Like all Saint-Exupéry novels, Flight to Arras too was inspired by the author’s own experiences. Saint-Exupéry served in the French air force and continued to fight after the fall of France. He disappeared during a reconnaissance flight over the  Mediterranean Sea in 1944; his identity bracelet was finally recovered from the sea in 1998. He’s the author of such classics as The Little Prince, Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars.

Continue reading “Quote of the Week: What War?”

Quote of the Week: The God of Triangles

It seems to me, Usbek, that we never judge anything without secretly considering it in relation to our own self. I am not surprised that black men depict the devil as brilliantly white, and their own gods as coal-black, that the Venus of certain peoples has breasts that hang down to her thighs, and in short, that all idolaters have depicted their gods with human faces, and have endowed them with their own propensities. It has been quite correctly observed that if triangles were to make themselves a god, they would give him three sides.

(Montesquieu: Persian Letters)

Quote of the Week: A Crop of Golden Trajectories

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Toulouse in 1933
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

Each burst of a machine gun or a rapid-fire cannon shot forth hundreds of these phosphorescent bullets that followed one another like the beads of a rosary. A thousand elastic rosaries strung themselves out towards the plane, drew themselves out to the breaking point, and burst at our height. When, missing us, the string went off at a tangent, its speed was dizzying. The bullets were transformed into lightning.

And I flew drowned in a crop of trajectories as golden as stalks of wheat. I flew at the centre of a thicket of lance strokes. I flew threatened by a vast and dizzying flutter of knitting needles. All the plain was now bound to me, woven and wound round me, a coruscating web of golden wire.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras)

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The Persian Letters of Montesquieu

Thirty-odd years ago I thought that the French author Montesquieu was enlightened, witty and clever. I based this opinion on reading his Persian Letters, an epistolary novel which details the experiences of two Persian travellers, Usbek and Rica, in France in the early part of the 18th century. Last month I picked up Persian Letters again… and found out what a change thirty-odd years made.

Continue reading “The Persian Letters of Montesquieu”

A Book with a History

The book is green with golden letters, cloth bound. Sunlight faded the spine into autumnal yellow so that you can no longer make out the title and the author very well. When you open it, the yellowed pages rustle, feeling slightly stiff to the fingers. The title page is followed by the picture of the author printed on smooth, glossy paper that contrasts with the coarser pages that follow it. I turn the pages and think: they don’t make books like this anymore.

And then there’s the way it smells. The smell of decades which lingers on  your fingers even after you put the book down.

Continue reading “A Book with a History”