February 16, 2008

The Book of Disquiet, texts 30 & 29

Two quotes from adjacent sections in The Book of Disquiet

One of my constant preoccupations is trying to understand how it is that other people exist, how it is that there are souls other than mine and consciousnesses not my own [...] I understand perfectly that the man before me uttering words similar to mine and making the same gestures I make, or could make, is in some way my fellow creature. However, I feel just the same about the people in illustrations I dream up, about the characters I see in novels or the dramatis personae on the stage who speak through the actors representing them.
text 30
If only one had not learned, from birth onwards, to give certain accepted meanings to everything, but instead was able to see the meaning inherent in each thing rather than that imposed on it from without. If only one could know the human reality of the woman selling fish and go beyond just labeling her a fishwife. If only one could see the policeman as God sees him [...] ...my vision ... is merely that of a human animal who unwittingly inherited Greek culture, Roman order, Christian morality and all the other illusions that make up the civilization in which I live and feel.
What's become of the living?
text 29
I've been carrying around and dipping in and out of the book for a long time now. It's a series of small journal entries and impressions, no real narrative, perfect for when you want something to think about without reading too much, while waiting in line, say, or for someone who's trying on shoes. The kind of book you're never sure you've finished reading

I like the way that nothing in it is presented as a definitive statement, the way it flows between highs and lows, embracing and rejecting the world. I like the fact that Pessoa was a clerk, like Kafka, not part of the public sphere, with its acclaim and privileges.

I fall for books which appear to be full of empty poses and glaring contradictions, the kind of passages that at different times strike you as profound or trite, crystallized truth or dull platitude. Consistency is something that I have little time for over the long run, and the long run is increasingly short. If by evening I can recall what I thought at breakfast, then I'm doing fine.

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