Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Seeing by Jose Saramago

I finished reading Master's masterpiece a few days back. Here are as a part of habit, the collected quotes from the book.


The genetic code of what, somewhat unthinkingly, we have been content to call human nature, cannot be reduced to the organic helix of deoxyribonucleic acid, or dna, there is much more to be said about it and it has much more to tell us, but human nature is, figuratively speaking, the complementary spiral that we have not yet managed to prise out of kindergarten despite the multitudes of psychologists and analysts from the most diverse schools and with the most diverse abilities who have broken their nails trying to draw its bolts.

Hope is like salt, there’s no nourishment in it, but it gives the bread its savor, for hours and hours.

Human beings are known universally as the only animals capable of lying, and while it is true that they sometime lie out of fear and sometimes out of self-interest, they also occasionally lie because they realize, just in time, that this is the only means available to them of defending the truth.

It is interesting to observe how the meanings of the words change without our noticing, how we often use them to mean precisely the opposite of what they used to mean and which, in a way, like a fading echo, they still continue to mean.

There is nothing like a good argument to release accumulated tension.

Experience has also taught us that when the time comes for them to be acted upon even the most perfect and polished of ideas can fail, whether because of some last minute hiccup, or because of a gap between expectation and reality, or because, at some critical point, the situation got out of control, or because of a thousand other possible reasons that it is not worth our while going into right now and for which we would not have time, it is therefore vital always to have at the ready a replacement or complementary idea, which would prevent, as might well happen in this case, the emergence of a power vacuum, or to use another more alarming expression, of street power, either of which would have disastrous consequences.

Caution and chicken soup never hurt anyone, in good health or bad.

The most common occurrence in this world of ours, in these days of stumbling blindly forward, is to come across men and women mature in years and ripe in prosperity, who, at eighteen, were not just beaming beacons of style, but also, and perhaps above all, bold revolutionaries determined to bring down the system supported by their parents and to replace it, at last, with a fraternal paradise, which, having warmed up and flexed their muscles on any of the many available versions of moderate conservatism, become, in time, pure egotism of the most obscene and reactionary kind. Put less respectfully, these men and these women, standing before the mirror of their life, spit every day in the face of what they were with the sputum of what they are.

Its odd how we spend everyday of our life saying goodbye, saying and hearing others say see you tomorrow, when inevitably, on one of those days, which will be someone’s last, either the person we said it to will no longer be here, or who said it will not.

As my cat would have said, all hours are good for sleeping.

Unknown soldiers do not need the names that they used in life in order to be showered with the right and proper honors, and that’s fine, if that’s what we agree to do, but if these dead, most of them unrecognizable, and two or three of them still unidentified, want anything, it is to be left in peace.

One can show no greater respect than to weep for a stranger.

Why do you grovel before my rough boots? / Why do you loosened your perfumed hairs / and treacherously open your soft arms? / I am nothing but a man with coarse hands / and a cold heart / and if, in order to pass, / I had to trample you underfoot / then, as you well know, I would trample you underfoot.

Changing the position of words often changes their meaning, but they, the words, when weighed one by one, continue physically to be exactly what they were.

People get upset and lose their temper and end up saying things they didn’t intend to or hadn’t even thought.

One precaution guarantees the other.

The safest way of categorizing is not by dividing them up into the stupid and the clever, but into the clever and the too clever, with the stupid we can do what we like, with the clever the trick is to get them on our side, whereas the too clever, even when they’re on our side, are still intrinsically dangerous, they cant help it, the oddest thing is that in everything they do, they are constantly warning us to be wary of them, but, generally speaking, we pay no attentions to the warnings and then have to face the consequences.

Sometimes being too close to the centers of decision-making brings on myopia, makes you short sighted.

If you want to be respected, don’t encourage familiarity.

When the birds are quiet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re on their nests, it’s the calm that conceals the storm, not the other way round, the same thing happens with human conspiracies, the fact that no one mentions them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Knowledge on its own isn’t always enough, whereas with luck and time you can achieve almost anything.

A moment’s folly can ruin a whole career.

He that knows nothing sees nothing.

In a matter of moment the amount of sand in the upper part of the hour-glass had dwindled dramatically, the tiny grains were rushing through the opening, each grain more eager to leave than the last, time is just like people, sometimes it’s all it can do to drag itself along, but at others, it runs like a deer and leaps like a young goat.

Languages are conservative, they always carry their archives with them and hate having to be updated.

You can’t be too careful with thoughts, some present themselves to us with a cloying air of false innocence and then, when it’s too late, reveal their true wicked selves.

Dreaming is cheap, it doesn’t cost any money.

When we are born, when we enter this world, it is as if we signed a pact for the rest of our life, but a day may come when we will ask ourselves Who signed this on my behalf, well, I asked myself that question.

Some people manage to stay standing even when they have been knocked down, and you’re one of them.


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