Thursday, August 09, 2007

Quotations #097

"Three moral successes don't equal one operational success." -- Avi Dichter, former head of Shin Bet (Washington Post, 8/27/06)

"The Devil is part of our experience. Our generation has seen enough of it for the message to be taken extremely seriously. Evil, I contend, is not contingent, it is not the absence, or deformation, or the subversion of virtue (or whatever else we may think of as its opposite), but a stubborn and unredeemable fact." -- Leszek Kolakowski, "The Devil in History," My Correct Views on Everything (2001), p. 133.

"You say that to think in terms of a 'system' yields excellent results. I am quite sure it does, not only excellent, but miraculous; it simply solves all the problems of mankind in one stroke." Leszek Kolakowski, "My Correct Views on Everything," (response to E.P.Thompson) in My Correct Views on Everything (2001).

"These revolutionary doctors and their pitilessly determined disciples are the only men in Germany who have any life; and it is to them, I fear, that the future belongs." -- Heinrich Heine

"In the reading room of the New York Public Library, that mausoleum, designed by some schoolmaster with memories of hard oak, dust and gloom, there are men who sit day after day, bulwarked by stacks of books, scribbling, scribbling in the little pools of light from the green-shaded lamps on the long oak tables, and you look at them and wonder what will-o'-the-wisps they are pursuing day after day, year after year. One of them may be writing a history of dentistry in America, another studying explosives in order to blow up the world, a third gathering evidence that Shakespeare wrote the Bible. Their faces are pale and grim. The only cheerful people in that place are those who do not read the books, but only handle them as they come from the dumbwaiter, and set them on the counter like mouldy slabs of beef. Those who sit at the long tables day after day are dedicated men; some of them are brave men. There is death in old books from the stacks of a great library; the dust that impregnates their pages is death and darkness; the dust says, "These are books that no one has opened for twenty years, fifty years, eighty years; and when you have written your book, it too will gather dust." White book dust, bone dust: garden dirt and axle grease are clean in comparison; they are living and unctuous; rubbed into the skin, they do good. The dust of books causes blains and hangnails; ingested, it provokes dyspepsia, flatulence, and heartburn; in the lungs it is cancerous. Who would not choose, if he could, to sit chained to an oar in a Roman galley, in the sunlight and salt air, rather than in this sunless crypt where, in the years from 1905 to 1920, Charles Fort sat? Many people must have wondered why he was here behind his tall stack of books: but one does not ask. Perhaps there is another like him there today, silent and determined under the green-shaded lamp." -- Damon Knight, Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained (Victor Gollancz, 1971)

1 comment:

Steve Muhlberger said...

Damn, that Damon Knight quote is good, especially if you read Charles Fort at an impressionable age!