Culture is perishing in overproduction, in an avalanche of words, in the madness of quantity. That’s why one banned book in your former country means infinitely more than the billions of words spewed out by our universities.”
criminal regimes were made not by criminals but by enthusiasts convinced they had discovered the only road to paradise. They defended that road so valiantly that they were forced to execute many people. Later it became clear that there was no paradise, that the enthusiasts were therefore murderers.
When you sit face to face with someone who is pleasant, respectful, and polite, you have a hard time reminding yourself that nothing he says is true, that nothing is sincere.
What then should he have done? Sign or not?
Another way of formulating the question is, Is it better to shout and thereby hasten the end, or to keep silent and gain thereby a slower death?
whenever a single political movement corners power, we find ourselves in the realm of totalitarian kitsch.
When I say “totalitarian,” what I mean is that everything that infringes on kitsch must be banished for life: every display of individualism (because a deviation from the collective is a spit in the eye of the smiling brotherhood); every doubt (because anyone who starts doubting details will end by doubting life itself); all irony (because in the realm of kitsch everything must be taken quite seriously);
The difference between the university graduate and the autodidact lies not so much in the extent of knowledge as in the extent of vitality and self-confidence.
The people Tomas met in the streets were different. Half of his friends had emigrated, and half of the half that remained had died.
But many also died without being directly subjected to persecution; the hopelessness pervading the entire country penetrated the soul to the body, shattering the latter.
His true goal was not to free the prisoners; it was to show that people without fear still exist. That, too, was playacting. But he had no other possibility. His choice was not between playacting and action. His choice was between playacting and no action at all. There are situations in which people are condemned to playact. Their struggle with mute power (the mute power across the river, a police transmogrified into mute microphones in the wall) is the struggle of a theater company that has attacked an army.
We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under.
The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public.
The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes.
Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love.
And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.
political movements rest not so much on rational attitudes as on the fantasies, images, words, and archetypes that come together to make up this or that political kitsch.