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.
(Joseph Roth: The Radetzky March)