A civilisation is a heritage of beliefs, customs, and knowledge slowly accumulated in the course of centuries, elements difficult at times to justify by logic, but justifying themselves as paths when they lead somewhere, since they open up for man his inner distance.
Defeat… Victory… Terms I do not know what to make of. One victory exalts, another corrupts. One defeat kills, another brings life. Tell me what seed is lodged in your victory or your defeat, and I will tell you its future. Life is not definable by situations but by mutations. There is but one victory that I know is sure, and that is the victory that is lodged in the energy of the seed. Sow the seed in the wide black earth and already the seed is victorious, though time must contribute to the triumph of wheat.
This morning France was a shattered army and a chaotic population. But if in a chaotic population there is a single consciousness animated by a sense of responsibility, the chaos vanishes. A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing wishing him the image of a cathedral. I shall not fret about the loam if somewhere in it a seed lies buried. The seed will drain the loam and the wheat will blaze.
… In conversation with my literary colleagues I always insist that it is not the artist’s business tosolve problems that require a specialist’s knowledge. It is a bad thing if a writer tackles a subject he does not understand. We have specialists for dealingwith special questions: it is their business to judge of the commune, of the future of capitalism, of the evils of drunkenness, of boots, of the diseases of women.
An artist must only judge of what he understands, his field is just as limited as that of any other specialist I repeat this and insist on it always. That in his sphere there are no questions, but only answers, can only be maintained by those who have never written and have had no experience of thinking in images. An artist observes, selects, guesses, combines and this in itself presupposes a problem: unless he had set himself a problem from the very first there would be nothing to conjecture and nothing to select. To put it briefly, I will end by using the language of psychiatry: if one denies that creative work involves problems and purposes, one must admit that an artist creates without premeditation or intention, in a state of aberration; therefore, if an author boasted to me of having written a novel without a preconceived design, under a sudden inspiration, I should call him mad.
You are right in demanding that an artist shouldtake an intelligent attitude to his work, but you confuse two things: solving a problem and statinga problem correctly. It is only the second that is obligatory for the artist. In “Anna Karenin” and“Evgeny Onyegin” not a single problem is solved, but they satisfy you completely because all the problems are correctly stated in them. It is the business of the judge to put the right questions, but the answers must be given by the jury according to their own lights.
(Anton Chekhov: Letters.
To A. S. Suvorin, Moscow, October 27, 1888)
But does history look like history while it is in the making? Isn’t it true that the common names are always expunged? For surely history is about ideas, vested interests and celebrated names (later to become street names), the names listed in indexes and encyclopaedias? Because no matter how much oral history is set down, the victims of world-shattering events are doomed to disappear. Their interchangeable names appear on monuments and memorials that hardly anyone notices any more, not only their bodies but also their identities are relegated to oblivion.
Pero ¿aparece la historia, mientras sucede, ya como historia? ¿No ocurre que los pequeños nombres siempre se obscurecen? ¿Se trata de las ideas, los intereses y los grandes nombres, los posteriores nombres de calles, los nombres de los índices y las enciclopedias? Porque por muchos libros que hayan aparecido llenos de oral history, todavía es normal que las víctimas desaparezcan tras los acontecimientos. Ves sus nombres cambiantes en monumentos de piedra que ya nadie contempla, no han desaparecido sólo sus cuerpos, también han desaparecido sus nombres.
(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago / El desvío a Santiago)
The injustice of defeat lies in the fact that its most innocent victims are made to look like heartless accomplices. It is impossible to see behind defeat, the sacrifices, the austere performance of duty, the self-discipline and the vigilance that are there — those things the god of battle does not take account of… Defeat shows up generals without authority, men without organization, crowds that are passive.
En mi biblioteca se resume toda mi vida. Hay libros que no he leído nunca y quizá ya no lea; pero hay otros muy manoseados y anotados. Todos me traen recuerdos de lo que fui y de lo que fueron en el momento en que los leí, de las circunstancias en que llegaron a mis manos, en un viaje, en una librería de viejo, olvidados en el banco de un parque, regalados…
My whole life is summed up in my library. There are books which I have never read and perhaps never will now; others are well-thumbed and annotated. They all remind me of who I was and what they were in the moment when I read them, of the circumstances in which I acquired them: during a trip, in an old bookshop, forgotten on a bench in a park, given as presents…
(Juan Eslava Galán: Of Libraries and Books, Zenda 7 June 2017)
In this court decisions are made by majority vote; however, experience has shown it is better to go by the opinion of the minority, which is perfectly natural, for the number of righteous judges is very small, and every one agrees that those with poor judgment are too numerous to count.
There is a narrow passage between the sepulchre and the wall nearest to it, so that he who would pass through it can only do so with difficulty, and has to drag himself through the stone work. There is a common fable that no one who is living in mortal sin can pass through this place. This I consider to be a fable, for all of us passed through it; whether we were all in a state of grace, God only knows.
(Felix Fabri: The Wanderings of Felix Fabri)
Note About the Author Picture
No known image exists of Felix Fabri (1441-1502), the Swiss/German monk who made a two pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the 1480s and kept a detailed diary of his journeys.
The image above, therefore, is of another unknown monk, known in Hungarian history as Anonymus, which is Latin for ‘nameless’; he was the notary of King Béla III and author of the Gesta Hungarorum, the first history of Hungary in the beginning of the 13th century.
I was given the Greek language;
a poor house on Homer’s beaches.
My only care my language on Homer’s beaches.
Seabream there and perch
green sea-currents amid the azure currents
which I felt light up in my viscera
with the first words of the Sirens
pink shells with their first black shivers.
My only care my language with the first black shivers.
(Odysseas Elytis: Psalm II)
La lengua me la dieron griega;
la casa pobre en las arenas de Homero.
Unica cuita me lengua en las arenas de Homero.
Allí sargos y percas
verbos sacudidos por el viento
corrientes verdes entre las azules
cuanto vi que se iba encendiendo en mis entrañas
con las primeras palabras de las Sirenas
conchas rosadas con los primeros estremecimientos negros
Unica cuita me lengua con los primeros estremecimientos negros.
There are paintings, statues, retables, altarpieces, from small, forsaken churches scattered all over the provincial and diocesan museums in Spain. How can something that was originally in a sense utilitarian turn into a work of art? Utilitarian: an image that served to instruct people about their faith. The frescoes recounted the Bible to the faithful who came to the church and who could not read, the statues were there to be adored, to be invoked in prayer. So now they have been pu ton display in art galleries, side by side with comparable specimens. The content of the story told by the paintings has evaporated for most visitors, only the form counts now. Few people, except students of art history, can still distinguish the symbols of the evangelists, still know about the Old Men of the Apocalypse, are still familiar with the attributes of the martyrs. Religion is transmuted into art, because stories become images that signify only themselves. The twentieth-century viewer observes a narrative that he can no longer interpret, to which he has grown blind.
Por todas partes, en museos provinciales y diocesanos hay pinturas, esculturas, retablos, cuadros de altares de iglesias pequeñas y abandonadas. ¿Cómo puede cambiar algo que seguramente fue un objeto de uso corriente y convertirse en un objeto artístico? Objeto de uso corriente: una imagen para explicar algo a los hombres sobre su fe. Estos cuadros contaban una historia a los hombres que venían a la iglesia y no podían leer, las imágenes estaban allí para ser adoradas, para suplicar algo. Ahora están en salas, acompañadas por otras imágenes del mismo estilo y colocadas en fila. La historia en los cuadros ha perdido ya para la mayoría de los visitantes su significado, ahora cuenta sólo la forma. Únicamente el estudiante de arte conoce aún los símbolos de los cuatro evangelistas, aún sabe algo de los Antiguos, del Final de los Tiempos, aún conoce lost atributos de los mártires. La religión se convierte en arte, el significado se convierte en forma, las historias se convierten en imágenes que sólo se significan a sí mismas. El observador del siglo XX ve una historia que ya no puede leer, porque está ciego para ella.
(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago / El desvío a Santiago)
Update to Mondays’ Weekly Quote / Noticia sobre la cita de la semana de los lunes:
These will continue to go ahead as usual but… for the rest of this month you can expect additional quotes on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays as well. This is because I’m very busy with Christmas and other things (as I’m sure you all are), and as a consequence I’m making very slow progress on some longer posts I’m currently working on. I’ll fit them in between the quotes as and when they get ready but in the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy the quotes!
Las citas de la semana seguirán adelante como de costumbre los lunes, pero … durante el resto de diciembre, también publicaré citas adicionales los miércoles, viernes y domingos. Eso porque estoy muy ocupada con la Navidad y otras cosas (cómo todos) y, en consecuencia, hago un progreso muy lento con algunas posts larguísimos en los que estoy trabajando en el momento. Los publicaré entre las citas a medida que estén listos, pero mientras tanto, ¡espero que disfrutéis de las citas!
After all the great endeavours, all the crossing and recrossing of oceans and continents, all the battles and victories and strivings, adventure at last was a voyage of a few miles up an English river…