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Category: Ex Libris

Quote from Albert Camus, The Rebel

There is not one human being who, above a certain level of elementary consciousness, does not exhaust himself in trying to find formulae and attitudes which will give his existence the unity it lacks. Appearance and action, the dandy and the revolutionary, all demand unity, in order to exist and in order to exist on this earth. As in those pathetic and miserable relationships which sometimes survive for a very long time because one of the partners is waiting to find the right word, action, gesture, or situation which will bring his adventure to an end on exactly the right note, so everyone proposes and creates for himself the final word. It is not sufficient to live, there must be a destiny which does not have to wait on death. it is therefore justifiable to say that man has an idea of a better world than this. But better does not mean different, it means unified. This passion which lifts the mind above the commonplaces of a dispersed world, from which it nevertheless detaches itself, is the passion for unity. It does not result in mediocre efforts to escape, however, but in the most obstinate demands. Religion or crime, every human endeavour in fact, finally obeys this unreasonable desire and claims to give life a form it does not have. The same impulse which can lead to the adoration of the heavens or the destruction of man, also leads to creative literature which derives its serious content at this source.

—- Albert Camus, “Rebellion and Art,” The Rebel


Quotes from Testaments Betrayed

Try to reconstruct a dialogue from your own life, the dialogue of a quarrel or a dialogue of love. The most precious, the most important situations are utterly gone. Their abstract sense remains (I took this point of view, he took that one, I was aggressive, he was defensive), perhaps a detail or two, but the acousticovisual concreteness of the situation in all its continuity is lost.

And not only is it lost but we do not even wonder at this loss. We are resigned to losing the concreteness of the present. We immediately transform the present moment into its abstraction. We need only recount an episode we experienced a few hours ago: the dialogue contracts to a brief summary, the setting to a few general features. This applies to even the strongest memories, which affect the mind deeply, like a trauma: we are so dazzled by their potency that we don’t realize how schematic and meager their content is.

When we study, discuss, analyze a reality, we analyze it as it appears in our mind, in our memory. We know reality only in the past tense. We do not know it as it is in the present, in the moment when it’s happening, when it is. The present moment is unlike the memory of it. Remembering is not the negative of forgetting. Remembering is a form of forgetting.

We can assiduously keep a diary and note every event. Rereading the entries one day, we will see that they cannot evoke a single concrete image. And still worse: that the imagination is unable to help our memory along and reconstruct what has been forgotten. The present – the concreteness of the present – as a phenomenon to consider, as a structure, is for us an unknown planet; so we can neither hold on to it in our memory nor reconstruct it through imagination. We die without knowing what have lived.

—- Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts, Milan Kundera

Maxims, La Rochefoucald

We have no more say in the duration of our passions than in that of our lives.

Our self-esteem is more inclined to resent criticism of our tastes than of our opinions.

The steadfastness of the wise is but the art of keeping their agitation locked in their hearts.

Greater virtues are needed to bear good fortune than bad.

We have more strength than will-power, and when we imagine things are impossible we are trying to make excuses to ourselves.

If we had no faults we should not find so much enjoyment in seeing faults in others.

Pride plays a greater part than kindness in the reprimands we address to wrongdoers; we reprove them not so much to reform them as to make them believe that we are free from their faults.

People too much taken up with little things usually become incapable of big ones.

We are never as fortunate or as unfortunate as we suppose.

People with a high opinion of their own merit make it a point of honour to be unhappy so as to convince others as well as themselves that they are worthy victims of the buffetings of fate.

The scorn for riches displayed by the philosophers was a secret desire to recompense their own merit for the injustice of Fortune by scorning those very benefits she had denied them; it was a private way of remaining unsullied by poverty, a devious path towards the high respect they could not command by wealth.

Sincerity is openness of heart. It is found in very few, and what is usually seen is subtle dissimulation designed to draw the confidence of others.

There are few people who, when their love for each other is dead, are not ashamed of that love.

Reconciliation with our enemies is nothing more than the desire to improve our position, war-weariness, or fear of some unlucky turn of events.

What men have called friendship is merely association, respect for each other’s interests, and exchange of good offices, in fact nothing more than a business arrangement from which self-love is always out to draw some profit.

Our self-esteem magnifies or minimises the good qualities of our friends according to how pleased we are with them, and we measure their worth by the way they get on with us.

Old people are fond of giving good advice; it consoles them for no longer being capable of setting a bad example.

A man’s ingratitude may be less reprehensible than the motives of his benefactor.

Nothing is less sincere that the way people ask and give advice. The asker appears to have deferential respect for his friend’s sentiments, although his sole object is to get his own approved and transfer responsibility for his conduct; whereas the giver repays with tireless and disinterested energy that confidence that has been placed in him, although most often the advice he gives is calculated to further his own interests or reputation alone.

We often do good so that we can do evil with impunity.

When we resist passions it is more on account of their weakness than our strength.

One of the reasons why so few people are to be found who seem sensible and pleasant in conversation is that almost everybody is thinking about what he wants to say himself rather than answering clearly what is being said to him. The more clever and polite think it enough simply to put on an attentive expression, while all the time you can see in their eyes and train of thought that they are far removed from what you are saying and anxious to get back to what they want to say. They ought, on the contrary, to reflect that such keenness to please oneself is a bad way of pleasing or persuading others, and that to listen well and answer to the point is one of the most perfect qualities one can have in conversation.

The glory of great men must always be measured against the means they have used to acquire it.

Our real worth earns the respect of knowledgeable people, luck that of the public.

We are held to our duty by laziness and timidity, but often our virtue gets all the credit.

Repentance is not so much regret for the evil we have done as fear of the evil that may befall us as a result.

We own up to our failings so that our honesty may repair the damage those failings do us in other men’s eyes.

We do not despise all those with vices, but we do despise all those without a single virtue.

Our misdeeds are easily forgotten when they are known only to ourselves.

Virtue would not go so far without vanity to bear it company.

Gratitude is like commercial good faith; it keeps trade going, and we pay up, not because it is right to settle our account but so that people will be more willing to extend us credit.

The deficit in the amount of gratitude we expect for kindnesses done is due to the pride of both giver and receiver, for they fail to agree upon the value of the kindness.

Over-eagerness to repay a debt is in itself a kind of ingratitude.

Afflictions give rise to various kinds of hypocrisy: in one, pretending to weep over the loss of someone dear to us we really weep for ourselves, since we miss that person’s good opinion of us or deplore some curtailment of our wealth, pleasure, or position. The dead, therefore, are honoured by tears shed for the living alone. I call this a kind of hypocrisy because in afflictions of this sort we deceive ourselves. There is another hypocrisy, less innocent because aimed at the world at large: the affliction of certain persons who aspire to the glory of a beautiful, immortal sorrow. Time, the universal destroyer, has taken away the grief they really felt, but still they obstinately go on weeping, wailing, and sighing; they are acting a mournful part and striving to make all their actions prove that their distress will only end with their lives. This miserable and tiresome vanity is usually found in ambitious women, for as their sex precludes them from all the roads to glory they seek celebrity by a display of inconsolable affliction. There is yet another kind of tears that rise from shallow springs and flow or dry up at will: people shed them so as to have a reputation for being tender-hearted, so as to be pitied or wept over, or, finally, to avoid the disgrace of not weeping.

Those who obstinately oppose the most widely-held opinions more often do so because of pride than lack of intelligence. They find the best places in the right set already taken, and they do not want back seats.

In every walk of life each man puts on a personality and outward appearance so as to look what he wants to be thought: in fact you might say that society is entirely made up of assumed personalities.

Civility is a desire to be repaid with civility, and also to be considered well bred.

Pity is often feeling our own sufferings in those of others, a shrewd precaution against misfortunes that may befall us. We give help to others so that they have to do the same for us on similar occasions, and these kindnesses we do them are, to put it plainly, gifts we bestow on ourselves in advance.

Readiness to believe the worst without adequate examination comes from pride and laziness: we want to find culprits but cannot be bothered to investigate the crimes.

Absence lessens moderate passions and intensifies great ones, as the wind blows out a candle but fans up a fire.

We own up to minor failings, but only so as to convince others that we have no major ones.

Commonplace minds usually condemn whatever is beyond their powers.

Most friends give one a distaste for friendship, and most of the pious a distaste for piety.

Decorum is the least important of all laws, but the best observed.

The very pride that makes us condemn failings from which we think we are exempt leads us to despise good qualities we do not possess.

Those who have known great passions remain all through their lives both glad and sorry they have recovered.

Moderation in times of good fortune is merely dread of the humiliating aftermath of excess, or fear of losing what one has.

Each one of us finds in others the very faults other finds in us.

When you cannot find your peace in yourself it is useless to look for it elsewhere.

As man is never free to love or cease loving, a lover has no right to complain of his mistress’s inconstancy, nor she of his fickleness.

We do not always regret the loss of our friends because of their worth, but because of our own needs and the flattering opinion they had of us.
















2013 三十本書

My books of 2013

到了年末,又是清算的時候。想着三十歲的2013 回顧應該有點與別不同,卻看見面書的朋友都在貼2013 十本書。我最近是太不問世事因而懵然不知。原本世事就是如車輪轉。追不上的人、放棄追的人,是否就要被世界遺忘?不過說到這個三十歲的2013,原本想做的,例如找三十個朋友替自己拍三十張照片、出走日本一年等都沒有做;反而書卻是一直在看。回顧2013 年看過的書,重溫一遍這一年自己是受着甚麼滋養一路走來,也未嘗不可吧。





Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
J. G. Ballard, Crash
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Samuel Butler, Erewhon
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Thea von Harbou, Metropolis
Georges Bataille, Story of the Eye
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
E. M. Forster, The Machine Stops
Jeff VanderMeer, The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature

(因為答應了參與合寫科幻小說的計劃,二月開始我就不斷的給自己灌輸這方面原本嚴重缺乏的基本知識,因而在短短半年間(買)看了大量科幻小說和電影動畫,以及相關的資料。除了上列的之外還把大學時期的Nineteen Eighty-Four Brave New World 等等經典都給挖出來了…… 科幻之外,還有Body Horror, Body Fetish,  Eroticism 等平時不大踫的東西。我的書架也因而變得有趣味得多了。)


Jean Webster, Daddy-long-legs
T. S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, illustrated by Edward Gorey
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio
Tim Burton, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden



Marcel Proust, Days of Reading
Michel Foucault, The Spectacle of the Scaffold
Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

(另外一個很想集齊的系列,Penguin Great Ideas。全100 本中暫時只收集了10本。一年5本的話還得儲18年……)


Richard Happer, 365 Reasons to Be Proud to Be British
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition
George Orwell, Politics and the English Language
Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jealousy
Jessica Fellowes, The Chronicles of Downton Abbey

(還有一些輕讀物。英國/Downton Abbey 迷。因為《Midnight in Paris》 所以看的海明威自傳。朋友介紹的法國文學。)


東野圭吾 《変身》
湊かなえ 《告白》
角田光代 《対岸の彼女》
アントワーヌ・ド・サン=テグジュペリ 《星の王子さま》
ジェーン・オースティン 《自負と偏見》



以上。2014 也繼續讀好書!

Susan Sontag on Albert Camus

Camus’s Notebooks contain an assortment of things. They are literary work-books, quarries for his writings, in which phrases, scraps of overheard conversation, ideas for stories, and sometimes whole paragraphs which were later incorporated into novels and essays, were first jotted down. These sections of the Notebooks are sketchy stuff, and for that reason I doubt if they will be terribly exciting event to aficonados of Camus’s fiction, despite me zealous annotation and correlation with the published works supplied by Mr. Thody. The Notebooks also contain a miscellany of reading notes (Spengler, Renaissance history, etc.) of a rather limited range—the vast reading that went into writing The Rebel is certainly not recorded here—and a number of apercus and reflections on psychological and moral themes. Some of these reflections have a great deal of boldness and finesse. They are worth reading, and they might help dispel one current image of Camus—according to which he was a sort of Raymond Aron, a man deranged by German philosophy belatedly converting to Anglo-Saxon empiricism and common sense under the name of “Mediterranean” virtue. The Notebooks, at least this first volume, exude an endearing atmosphere of domesticated Nietzscheanism. The young Camus writes as a French Nietzsche, melancholy where Nietzsche is savage, stoical where Nietzsche is outraged, impersonal and objective in tone where Nietzsche is personal and subjective to the point of mania. And lastly, the Notebooks are full of personal comments—declarations and resolutions, one might better describe them—of a markedly impersonal nature.

Impersonality is perhaps the most telling things about Camus’s Notebooks; they are so anti-autobiographical. It is hard to remember, when reading the Notebooks, that Camus was a mn who had a very interesting life, a life (unlike that of many writers) interesting not only in an interior but also in an outward sense. There is scarcely anything of this life in the Notebooks. There is nothing about his family, to whom he was closely attached. Neither is there any mention of the events which took place in this period: his work with the Theatre de 1’Equipe, his first and second marriages, his membership in the Communist Party, his career as an editor of a leftwing Algerian newspaper.

Of course, a writer’s journal must not be judged by the standards of a diary. The notebooks of a writer have a very special function: in them he builds up, piece by piece, the identity of a writer to himself. Typically, writers’ notebooks are crammed with statements about the will: the will to write, the will to love, the will to renounce love, the will to go on living. The journal is where a writer is heroic to himself. In it he exists solely as a perceiving, suffering, struggling being. That is why all the personal comments in Camus’s Notebooks are of so impersonal a nature, and competely exclude the events and the people in his life. Camus writes about himself only as a solitary—a solitary reader, voyeur, sun-and-sea worshippers, and walker in the world. In this he is being very much the writer. Solitariness is the indispensable metaphor of the modern writer’s consciousness, not only to self-declared emotional misfits like Pavese, but even to as sociable and socially conscientious a man as Camus.


(On the 100th anniversary of Albert Camus’s birth)

George Orwell on Meaningless words

Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly even expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, ‘The outstanding features of Mr X’s work is its living quality’, while another writes, ‘The immediately striking thing about Mr X’s work is its peculiar deadness’, the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly used. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only there is no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

—- George Orwell, ‘Politics and the English Language’

In sooth, I kno…

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:
It wearies me; you say it wearies you;
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn;
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.

—- William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, I.i.1-7


And so it goes that Antonio, who could never express his love for Bassanio, hid his love in his heart; and Bassanio, ignorant of Antonio’s love for him, appealed to him for means to win Portia’s hand. That Antonio did, and his melancholy was never abated, and would last till the couple’s marriage, way beyond the finale of the play. He would have preferred death by losing a pound of flesh and blood to Shylock, so as to be rid of this sadness, if he were not prevented by the thankful couple who were happy and therefore cruel.