Prague Sayings And Quotes

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What does the philosopher say? Odi ergo sum. I hate therefore I am.
Umberto Eco (The Prague Cemetery)
I hear there are people who actually enjoy moving. Sounds like a disease to me - they must be unstable. Though it does have it’s poetry, I’ll allow that. When an old dwelling starts looking desolate, a mixture of regret and anxiety comes over us and we feel like we are leaving a safe harbor for the rolling sea. As for the new place, it looks on us with alien eyes, it has nothing to say to us, it is cold.
Jan Neruda (Prague Tales (Central European Classics))
In Wenceslaus Square, in Prague, a guy is throwing up. Another guy comes up to him, pulls a long face, shakes his head, and says: "I know just what you mean.
Milan Kundera (The Book of Laughter and Forgetting)
Here in Prague they say that although the traffic police are communists the drivers are fascists, which would be all right if it were not that the pedestrians are anarchists.
Len Deighton (Funeral in Berlin)
When, as my friend suggested, I stand before Zeus (whether I die naturally, or under sentence of History)I will repeat all this that I have written as my defense.Many people spend their entire lives collecting stamps or old coins, or growing tulips. I am sure that Zius will be merciful toward people who have given themselves entirely to these hobbies, even though they are only amusing and pointless diversions. I shall say to him : "It is not my fault that you made me a poet, and that you gave me the gift of seeing simultaneously what was happening in Omaha and Prague, in the Baltic states and on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.I felt that if I did not use that gift my poetry would be tasteless to me and fame detestable. Forgive me." And perhaps Zeus, who does not call stamp-collectors and tulip-growers silly, will forgive.
Czesław Miłosz (The Captive Mind)
Dolorita Hunsickle says that the chipmunks tell your fortune if you catch them but I never did. She says a chipmunk told her she would grow up to be a famous ballerina and that she would die of consumption unloved in a boardinghouse in Prague.
Neil Gaiman (Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions)
Ah,” Tesch says. “Very admirable of you. You know, it reminds me of a documentary I saw last month, a little Czech film about an outsider artist who refused to show her work during her lifetime. She lived in Praha, and—” “Oh,” Clark says, “I believe when you’re speaking English, you’re allowed to refer to it as Prague.” Tesch appears to have lost the power of speech.
Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven)
The Kammerlicht: Explanations of the Impressions Left Upon Various and Sundry Natures by Dreams as Interpreted According to Tribe, and of the Numbers to be Staked in Lotteries in Conformity with the Meanings of Said Dreams .. says … there are eight ‘tribes’ of dreams and of the eight only the fifth is genuine. Tribe 8 are dreams emanating directly from evil spirits. Tribe 7 are dreams granted to the virtuous as direct revelations. Tribe 6 are dreams from roots planted in disease (fever and such). Tribe 5 are dreams that come to those who have taken no food before retiring and are of a healthy & tranquil disposition.
Jan Neruda (Prague Tales (Central European Classics))
We closed our eyes and woke up to the world of the Troll King. And everyone—everyone—who has lived by the laws of humanity is in some sort of prison. It is a crime to say, ‘To thine own self be true.’ They have made truth a crime. Now we live the law of trolls. Like Hugel, ‘To thine own self be enough! To thine own self be everything!
Bodie Thoene (Prague Counterpoint (Zion Covenant, #2))
Tropical forests are on fire, the desert encroaches. All humanity, if you like, is harmful. What is one to say to this? Try walking more?
Ludvík Vaculík (A Cup of Coffee With My Interrogator: The Prague Chronicles of Ludvik Vaculik)
She lived in Praha, and—” “Oh,” Clark says, “I believe when you’re speaking English, you’re allowed to refer to it as Prague.
Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven)
The Frenchman doesn't really know what he wants, but knows perfectly well that he doesn't want what he has. And the only way he knows of saying it is by singing songs.
Umberto Eco (The Prague Cemetery)
Main Street is the climax of civilization. That this Ford car might stand in front of the Bon Ton Store, Hannibal invaded Rome and Erasmus wrote in Oxford cloisters. What Ole Jenson the grocer says to Ezra Stowbody the banker is the new law for London, Prague, and the unprofitable isles of the sea; whatsoever Ezra does not know and sanction, that thing is heresy, worthless for knowing and wicked to consider.
Sinclair Lewis (Main Street)
All I know about the Jews is what my grandfather taught me. "They are the most godless people," he used to say. "They start off from the idea that good must happen here, not beyond the grave. Therefore, they work only for the conquest of this world.
Umberto Eco (The Prague Cemetery)
It would be good news indeed if people were behaving unnaturally when, under the stress of wartime conditions, they exhibited more cruelty than compassion and more cowardice than courage; or if those who rushed to salute Hitler and Stalin had first been twisted into something other than “themselves.” In saying this, I do not intend to leap into a philosophical or still less a theological discussion of human character. There is no need to go beyond what we know and have seen. Given the events described in this book, we cannot help but acknowledge the capacity
Madeleine K. Albright (Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948)
I know there was nothing anyone could do. But they were taking away an 86-year-old grandmother to a horrible death, and the village where she had lived all her life, where everybody loved her, had just looked on. The only thing that anyone had had to say was, 'Mrs. Bloch, don't be afraid...
Heda Margolius Kovály (Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague, 1941-1968)
In the 1930s, before the rise of the communist regime, there were already strong forces in the culture that paved the way for it,” says Patrik Benda, a Prague political consultant, of his native Czechoslovakia. “All the artists and intellectuals advocated communist ideas, and if you didn’t agree, you were marked for exclusion. This was almost two decades before actual communism took power.
Rod Dreher (Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents)
A young woman forced to keep drunks supplied with beer and siblings with clean underwear—instead of being allowed to pursue something higher —stores up great reserves of vitality, a vitality never dreamed of by university students yawning over their books. (...) The difference between the university graduate and the autodidact lies not so much in the extent of knowledge as in the extent of vitality and self-confidence. The elan with which Tereza flung herself into her new Prague existence was both frenzied and precarious. She seemed to be expecting someone to come up to her any day and say, What are you doing here? Go back where you belong!
Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being)
One might say that, until now, the social, cultural, and political framework for knowledge of the Gulag has not been in place. I first became aware of this problem several years ago, when walking across the Charles Bridge, a major tourist attraction in what was then newly democratic Prague. There were buskers and hustlers along the bridge, and, every fifteen feet or so someone was selling precisely what one would expect to find for sale in such a postcard-perfect spot. Paintings of appropriately pretty streets were on display, along with bargain jewelry and 'Prague' key chains. Among the bric-a-brac, one could buy Soviet military paraphernalia: caps, badges, belt buckles, and little pins, the tin Lenin and Brezhnev images that Soviet schoolchildren once pinned to their uniforms. The sight struck me as odd. Most of the people buying the Soviet paraphernalia were Americans and West Europeans. All would be sickened by the thought of wearing a swastika. None objected, however, to wearing the hammer and sickle on a T-shirt or a hat. It was a minor observation, but sometimes, it is through just such minor observations that a cultural mood is best observed. For here, the lesson could not have been clearer: while the symbol of one mass murder fills us with horror, the symbol of another mass murder makes us laugh.
Anne Applebaum (Gulag: A History)
...The gulag—with its millions of victims, if you listen to Solzehnitsyn and Sakharov—supposedly existed in the Soviet Union right down to the very last days of communism. If so—as I've asked before—where did it disappear to? That is, when the communist states were overthrown, where were the millions of stricken victims pouring out of the internment camps with their tales of torment? I'm not saying they don't exist; I'm just asking, where are they? One of the last remaining camps, Perm-35—visited in 1989 and again in '90 by Western observers—held only a few dozen prisoners, some of whom were outright spies, as reported in the Washington Post. Others were refuseniks who tried to flee the country. The inmates complained about poor-quality food, the bitter cold, occasional mistreatment by guards. I should point out that these labor camps were that: they were work camps. They weren't death camps that you had under Nazism where there was a systematic extermination of the people in the camps. So there was a relatively high survival rate. The visitors also noted that throughout the 1980s, hundreds of political prisoners had been released from the various camps, but hundreds are not millions. Even with the great fall that took place after Stalin, under Khrushchev, when most of the camps were closed down...there was no sign of millions pouring back into Soviet life—the numbers released were in the thousands. Why—where are the victims? Why no uncovering of mass graves? No Nuremburg-style public trials of communist leaders, documenting the widespread atrocities against these millions—or hundreds of millions, if we want to believe our friend at the Claremont Institute. Surely the new...anti-communist rulers in eastern Europe and Russia would have leaped at the opportunity to put these people on trial. And the best that the West Germans could do was to charge East German leader Erich Honecker and seven of his border guards with shooting persons who tried to escape over the Berlin Wall. It's a serious enough crime, that is, but it's hardly a gulag. In 1955[sic], the former secretary of the Prague communist party was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. 'Ah, a gulag criminal!' No, it was for ordering police to use tear gas and water cannons against demonstrators in 1988. Is this the best example of bloodthirsty communist repression that the capitalist restorationists could find in Czechoslovakia? An action that doesn't even qualify as a crime in most Western nations—water cannons and tear gas! Are they kidding? No one should deny that crimes were committed, but perhaps most of the gulag millions existed less in reality and more in the buckets of anti-communist propaganda that were poured over our heads for decades.
Michael Parenti
The Golem If (as affirms the Greek in the Cratylus) the name is archetype of the thing, in the letters of “rose” is the rose, and all the Nile flows through the word. Made of consonants and vowels, there is a terrible Name, that in its essence encodes God’s all, power, guarded in letters, in hidden syllables. Adam and the stars knew it in the Garden. It was corroded by sin (the Cabalists say), time erased it, and generations have forgotten. The artifice and candor of man go on without end. We know that there was a time in which the people of God searched for the Name through the ghetto’s midnight hours. But not in that manner of those others whose vague shades insinuate into vague history, his memory is still green and lives, Judá the Lion the rabbi of Prague. In his thirst to know the knowledge of God Judá permutated the alphabet through complex variations and in the end pronounced the name that is the Key the Door, the Echo, the Guest, and the Palace, over a mannequin shaped with awkward hands, teaching it the arcane knowledge of symbols, of Time and Space. The simulacrum raised its sleepy eyelids, saw forms and colors that it did not understand, and confused by our babble made fearful movements. Gradually it was seen to be (as we are) imprisoned in a reverberating net of Before, Later, Yesterday, While, Now, Right, Left, I, You, Those, Others. The Cabalists who celebrated this mysterium, this vast creature, named it Golem. (Written about by Scholem, in a learned passage of his volume.) The rabbi explained the universe to him, “This is my foot, this yours, and this the rope,” but all that happened, after years, was that the creature swept the synagogue badly. Perhaps there was an error in the word or in the articulation of the Sacred Name; in spite of the highest esoteric arts this apprentice of man did not learn to speak. Its eyes uncanny, less like man than dog and much less than dog but thing following the rabbi through the doubtful shadows of the stones of its confinement. There was something abnormal and coarse in the Golem, at its step the rabbi’s cat fled in fear. (That cat not from Scholem but of the blind seer) It would ape the rabbi’s devotions, raising its hands to the sky, or bend over, stupidly smiling, into hollow Eastern salaams. The rabbi watched it tenderly but with some horror. How (he said) could I engender this laborious son? Better to have done nothing, this is insanity. Why did I give to the infinite series a symbol more? To the coiled skein on which the eternal thing is wound, I gave another cause, another effect, another grief. In this hour of anguish and vague light, on the Golem our eyes have stopped. Who will say the things to us that God felt, at the sight of his rabbi in Prague?
Jorge Luis Borges
He might say he had made a mistake in moving to this foreign city—it had seemed like a good idea in California, but now where else could he go?
Arthur Phillips (Prague)
The Crusade Produced the first Holocaust: "The Jews of Mainz try to persuade the crusaders by casting coins and precious goods from their windows . The offering is not sufficient. The crusaders drag families from their dwellings and order them to submit to the christian baptism. The peasants with their scythes and sickles slice the throats of all those who refuse. over 900 suffer martyrdom. Out breaks of the program take place in other cities : Cologne , Trier, Prague and Ratisbon. The anti-jewish sentiment spreads throughout France and England. How many are slaughtered to provide provisions for the Peasant Crusade remains historians' guess. Some say 10,000.
Paul L. Williams
...an unlikely group pieced together these past few weeks from parties and family references, friend-of-friend happenstance, and (in one case, just now being introduced) sheer, scarcely tolerable intrusiveness-five people who, in normal life back home, would have been satisfied never to have known one another. Five young expatriates hunch around an undersized cafe table: a moment of total insignificance, and not without a powerful whiff of cliche. Unless you were one of them. Then this meaningless, overdrawn moment may (then or later) seem to be somehow the summation of both an era and your own youth, your undeniably defining afternoon (though you can hardly say that aloud without making a joke of it). Somehow this one game of Sincerity becomes the distilled recollection of a much longer series of events. It persistantly rises to the surface of your memory-that afternoon when you fell in love with a person or a place or a mood, when you savored the power of fooling everyone, when you discovered some great truth about the world, when (like a baby duck glimpsing your quacking mother's waddling rear for the first time) an indelible brand was seared into your heart, which is, of course, a finate space with limited room for searing. Despite its insignificance, there was this moment, this hour or two, this spring afternoon blurring into evening on a cafe patio in a Central European capital in the opening weeks of its post-Communist era. The glasses of liqueur. The diamond dapples of light between oval, leaf-shaped shadows, like optical illusions. The trellised curve of the cast-iron fence seperating the patio from its surrounding city square. The uncomfortable chair. Someday this too will represent someone's receding, cruelly unattainable golden age. (4-5)
Arthur Phillips (Prague)
So from morning onward I’m kept company by pictures of weather fronts, lovely abstract lines on maps, blue ones and red ones, relentlessly approaching from the west, from over the Czech Republic and Germany. They carry the air that Prague was breathing a short while ago, maybe Berlin too. It flew in from the Atlantic and crept across the whole of Europe, so one could say we have sea air up here, in the mountains. I particularly love it when they show maps of pressure, which explain a sudden resistance to getting out of bed or an ache in the knees, or something else again—an inexplicable sorrow that has just the same character as an atmospheric front, a moody figura serpentinata within the Earth’s atmosphere.
Olga Tokarczuk (Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead)
Faced with the Führer, Hácha caved in. He declared that the situation was very clear and that all resistance was madness. But it’s already two a.m., and he has only four hours to prevent the Czech people from defending themselves. According to Hitler, the German military machine is already on the march (true) and nothing can stop it (at least, no one seems very keen to try). Hácha must sign the surrender immediately and inform Prague. The choice Hitler is offering could not be simpler: either peace now, followed by a long collaboration between the two nations, or the total annihilation of Czechoslovakia. President Hácha, terrified, is left in a room with Göring and Ribbentrop. He sits at a table, the document before him. All he has to do now is sign it. The pen is in his hand, but his hand is trembling. The pen keeps stopping before it can touch the paper. In the absence of the Führer, who rarely stays to oversee such formalities, Hácha gets jumpy. “I can’t sign this,” he says. “If I sign the surrender, my people will curse me forever.” This is perfectly true. So Göring and Ribbentrop have to convince Hácha that it’s too late to turn back. This leads to a farcical scene where, according to witnesses, the two Nazi ministers literally chase Hácha around the table, repeatedly putting the pen back in his hand and ordering him to sign the bloody thing. At the same time, Göring yells continuously: if Hácha continues to refuse, half of Prague will be destroyed within two hours by the German air force … and that’s just for starters! Hundreds of bombers are waiting for the order to take off, and they will receive that order at 6:00 a.m. if the surrender is not signed. At this crucial moment, Hácha goes dizzy and faints. Now it’s the two Nazis who are terrified, standing there over his inert body. He absolutely must be revived: if he dies, Hitler will be accused of murdering him in his own office. Thankfully, there is an expert injecter in the house: Dr. Morell, who will later inject Hitler with amphetamines several times a day until his death—a medical regime that probably had some link with the Führer’s growing dementia. So Morell suddenly appears and sticks a syringe into Hácha, who wakes up. A telephone is shoved into his hand. Given the urgency of the situation, the paperwork can wait. Ribbentrop has taken care to install a special direct line to Prague. Gathering what is left of his strength, Hácha informs the Czech cabinet in Prague of what is happening in Berlin, and advises them to surrender. He is given another injection and taken back to see the Führer, who presents him once again with that wretched document. It is nearly four a.m. Hácha signs. “I have sacrificed the state in order to save the nation,” he believes. The imbecile. It’s as if Chamberlain’s stupidity was contagious …
Laurent Binet (HHhH)
Maybe there is no right time to say how you feel, how you think you feel. Is there a difference?
Rick Pryll (The Chimera of Prague)
FIDELITY AND BETRAYAL He loved her from the time he was a child until the time he accompanied her to the cemetery; he loved her in his memories as well. That is what made him feel that fidelity deserved pride of place among the virtues: fidelity gave a unity to lives that would otherwise splinter into thousands of split-second impressions. Franz often spoke about his mother to Sabina, perhaps even with a certain unconscious ulterior motive: he assumed that Sabina would be charmed by his ability to be faithful, that it would win her over. What he did not know was that Sabina was charmed more by betrayal than by fidelity. The word fidelity reminded her of her father, a small-town puritan, who spent his Sundays painting away at canvases of woodland sunsets and roses in vases. Thanks to him, she started drawing as a child. When she was fourteen, she fell in love with a boy her age. Her father was so frightened that he would not let her out of the house by herself for a year. One day, he showed her some Picasso reproductions and made fun of them. If she couldn't love her fourteen-year-old schoolboy, she could at least love cubism. After completing school, she went off to Prague with the euphoric feeling that now at last she could betray her home. Betrayal. From tender youth, we are told by father and teacher that betrayal is the most heinous offense imaginable. But what is betrayal? Betrayal means breaking ranks. Betrayal means breaking ranks and going off into the unknown. Sabina knew of nothing more magnificent than going off into the unknown. Though a student at the Academy of Fine Arts, she was not allowed to paint like Picasso. It was the period when so-called socialist realism was prescribed and the school manufactured Portraits of Communist statesmen. Her longing to betray her father remained unsatisfied: Communism was merely another father, a father equally strict and limited, a father who forbade her love (the times were puritanical) and Picasso, too. And if she married a second-rate actor, it was only because he had a reputation for being eccentric and was unacceptable to both fathers. Then her mother died. The day following her return to Prague from the funeral, she received a telegram saying that her father had taken his life out of grief. Suddenly she felt pangs of conscience: Was it really so terrible that her father had painted vases filled with roses and hated Picasso? Was it really so reprehensible that he was afraid of his fourteen-year-old daughter's coming home pregnant? Was it really so laughable that he could not go on living without his wife? And again she felt a longing to betray: betray her own betrayal. She announced to her husband (whom she now considered a difficult drunk rather than an eccentric) that she was leaving him. But if we betray B., for whom we betrayed A., it does not necessarily follow that we have placated A. The life of a divorcee-painter did not in the least resemble the life of the parents she had betrayed. The first betrayal is irreparable. It calls forth a chain reaction of further betrayals, each of which takes us farther and farther away from the point of our original betrayal.
Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being)
At the tail end of the Steel Wheels tour we liberated Prague, or so it felt. We played a concert there soon after the revolution that ended the communist regime. 'Tanks Roll Out, Stones Roll In' was the headline. It was a great coup by Václav Havel, the politician who had taken Czechoslovakia through a bloodless coup only months earlier, a brilliant move. Tanks were going out, and now we're going to have the Stones. We were glad to be part of it. Havel is perhaps the only head of state who has made, or would imagine making, a speech about the role that rock music played in political events leading to a revolution in the Eastern Bloc of Europe. He is the one politician I'm proud to have met. Lovely guy. He had a huge brass telescope in the palace, once he was president, and it was focused on the prison cell where he did six years. 'And every day I look through there to try and figure things out.' We lit the state palace for him. They couldn't afford to do it, so we asked Patrick Woodroffe, our lighting guru, to relight the huge castle. Patrick set him up, Taj Mahal'd him. We gave Václav this little white remote control with a tongue on it. He was like a kid, pushing buttons and going, whoa! It's not often you get to hang with presidents like that and say, Jesus, I like the cat.
Keith Richards (Life)
The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought.
Richard Fidler (The Golden Maze: A biography of Prague)
[In 2014] …far from Prague, the Library of Congress organized a special tribute on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution to honor the life and legacy of Havel and to unveil a bust of the man that would be placed inside the U.S. capitol. […] John McCain, the conservative senator, called Havel a great man, saying he epitomized the cutting edge of what led to the end of the Soviet empire.
David Gilbreath Barton (Havel: Unfinished Revolution)
I never understood the place of the workers all that time, which was proudly called, 'The Spring of Prague'. It is quite possible that he was right. It is possible that it was actually the students who managed to drag the country into these reforms. If this is true, I thought to myself, they are also guilty of the Soviet occupation. After all, they caused it.
Nahum Sivan (Till We Say Goodbye)
Mr Ambrayses nodded. “Two explanations are commonly offered for this,” he said: “In the first we are asked to imagine certain sites in the world–a crack in the concrete in Chicago or New Delhi, a twist in the air in an empty suburb of Prague, a clotted milk bottle on a Bradford tip–from which all flies issue in a constant stream, a smoke exhaled from some fundamental level of things. This is what people are asking–though they do not usually know it–when they say exasperatedly, “Where are all these flies coming from ?” Such locations are like the holes in the side of a new house where insulation has been pumped in: something left over from the constructional phase of the world. “This is an adequate, even an appealing model of the process. But it is not modern; and I prefer the alternative, in which it is assumed that as Viriconium grinds past us, dragging its enormous bulk against the bulk of the world, the energy generated is expressed in the form of these insects, which are like the sparks shooting from between two flywheels that have momentarily brushed each other.
M. John Harrison