Friendship is not born in conditions of need or trouble. Literary fairy tales tell of ‘difficult’ conditions which are an essential element in forming any friendship, but such conditions are simply not difficult enough. If tragedy and need brought people together and gave birth to their friendship, then the need was not extreme and the tragedy not great. Tragedy is not deep and sharp if it can be shared with friends. Only real need can determine one’s spiritual and physical strength and set the limits of one’s physical endurance and moral courage. We all understood that we could survive only through luck. (Loc 788)
The Centenary of the Russian Revolution should be mourned, not celebrated
Kafka liked swimming, hiking, zooming around on a motorbike, illustrating erotic fiction, and frequenting brothels. Did any of that inform his writing?
Kolyma Tales by Varlam ShalamovWhere Solzhenitsyn constructs a single vast panorama, loose and sprawling, Shalamov chooses the most concise of literary forms, the short story, and shapes it consciously and carefully, so that his overall structure is like a mosaic made of tiny pieces. Where Solzhenitsyn writes with anger, sarcasm and bitterness, Shalamov adopts a studiedly dry and neutral tone. Where Solzhenitsyn plunges into his characters’ fates, telling their story from a variety of subjective viewpoints, Shalamov takes strict control of his discourse, usually conducting his narrative from an undivided viewpoint and aiming at complete objectivity. Where Solzhenitsyn is fiercely moralistic and preaches redemption through suffering, Shalamov contents himself with cool aphorisms and asserts that real suffering, such as Kolyma imposed on its inmates, can only demoralize and break the spirit.
You are not necessarily a more intelligent reader at 65 than 25, but you are more subtle. Rereading -- a pleasure and necessity of age -- sometimes means ... Revolutionary Rogues
, it’s said, provide “a snapshot of an age.” Yet in every age, while characters and settings may have changed, the narratives are familiar
The work of the dead falls on the living, especially undertakers. We can live with broken hearts and shaken faith. But we can't live with a on the floor
Definition of 'fascist'
There are amazing things hidden in the stacks of the University of Virginia library. In fact, there are amazing things hidden in the stacks of most libraries—which is more or less the point. At UVA, a project called Book Traces is underway to look inside every book in the stacks that was published before 1923—which, as you might imagine, is a fair number—for “interventions” that may shed light on how the books were read, studied, and used as physical objects. The interventions might be handwritten marginalia, original poetry, pasted-in newspaper clippings or illustrations, physical modifications to the book, or any one of a variety of small objects—letters, photographs, leaves, locks of hair—tucked between the pages years ago and forgotten.
Strange things in old books
Milton, sci-fi inventor
Wilson-Nabokov cage match
The University of Maryland has confirmed the death of Thomas Schelling, perhaps the most important economist and social scientist of his generation. Most social scientists hope that their ideas will be read, and perhaps, if they are lucky, change people’s minds a little. Schelling’s ideas made the Cold War what it was and changed the world.
They Have, Right Now, Another You NYRB