"My melancholy is the most faithful sweetheart I have had."
- Søren Kierkegaard
"But the truth is that the curtain rises upon the play already in progress. In one sense it is a true paradox that there was history before history. But it is not the irrational paradox implied in prehistoric history; for it is a history we do not know. Very probably it was exceedingly like the history we do know, except in the one detail that we do not know it. It is thus the very opposite of the pretentious prehistoric history, which professes to trace everything in a consistent course from the amoeba to the anthropoid and from the anthropoid to the agnostic. So far from being a question of our knowing all about queer creatures very different from ourselves, they were very probably people very like ourselves, except that we know nothing about them. In other words, our most ancient records only reach back to a time when humanity had long been human, and even long been civilized. The most ancient records we have not only mention but take for granted things like kings and priests and princes and assemblies of the people; they describe communities that are roughly recognizable as communities in our own sense. Some of them are despotic; but we cannot tell that they have always been despotic. Some of them may be already decadent and nearly all are mentioned as if they were old. We do not know what really happened in the world before those records; but the little we do know would leave us anything but astonished if we learnt that it was very much like what happens in this world now. There would nothing inconsistent or confounding about the discovery that those unknown ages were full of republics collapsing under monarchies and rising again as republics, empires expanding and finding colonies and then losing colonies, kingdoms combining again into worldstates and breaking up again into small nationalities, classes selling themselves into slavery and marching out once more into liberty; all that procession of humanity which may or may not be a progress but is most assuredly a romance. But the first chapters of the romance have been torn out of the book; and we shall never read them."
- G.K. Chesterton, chapter 3 (“The Antiquity of Civilization”) of The Everlasting Man.
"Of course one must take into account Kafka’s solipsism, which in his diaries makes singular that which in the fiction is more clearly the condition of all our lives. (Kafka wrote not only because it was impossible for him to live but also because it is impossible for all of us to live, though his point was that most of us do not grasp this.) But it is certainly the case that Kafka alone brought us to the very boundary of the novel, rejecting any interest in a writer’s ‘subject’—a place, a culture, a community, a group of people—and replacing it with a dismantling of the very idea of subjects and subjecthood. In this regard both the overtly Freudian and the overtly religious interpretations of Kafka are misguided, insofar as they identify a definitive ‘subject,’ a final point or a ‘bottom line,’ of a prose that has no final destination, only a journey. They miss what David Foster Wallace has described as ‘the central Kafka joke—that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey towards home is in fact our home.’"
- Zadie Smith, "The Limited Circle is Pure," The New Republic, November 3, 2003
"The idea of a golden age is inherent in the tradition of every people which proves nothing except that people are never satisfied with the present, and since their experience gives them little hope for the future, they adorn the irrevocable past with all the flowers of their imagination."
- Alexander Pushkin, A History of the Village of Goriukhino
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"Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."
- The Wolf Man. 1941.
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