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Milan Kundera

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

· The best progressive ideas are those that include a strong enough dose of provocation to make its supporters feel proud of being original, but at the same time attract so many adherents that the risk of being an isolated exception is immediately averted by the noisy approval of a triumphant crowd.

Pg. 273


· The feeling of being elect is present, for instance, in every love relation. For love is by definition an unmerited gift; being loved without meriting it is the very proof of real love. If a woman tells me: I love you because you’re intelligent, because you’re decent, because you buy me gifts, because you don’t chase women, because you do the dishes, then I’m disappointed; such love seems a rather self-interested business. How much finer it is to hear: I’m crazy about you even though you’re neither intelligent nor decent, even though you’re a liar, an egotist, a bastard.

Pg. 49

· Then they rise and continue their stroll. The full moon emerges from the foliage. Vincent looks at Julie and suddenly he is bewitched: the white light has endowed the girl with the beauty of a fairy, a beauty that surprises him, new beauty he did not see in her before, a fine, fragile, chaste, inaccessible beauty. And suddenly, he cannot even tell how it happened, he images the hole of her ass. Abruptly, unexpectedly, that image is there, and he will never be rid of it.

Pg. 89

· I consider those four months and ten days between the two poems, four months Apollinaire spent in the trenches, deep in intense erotic reveries that brought him to that shift in perspective, to that revelation: the ass hole is the miraculous focal point for all the nuclear energy of nakedness. The vulva portal is important, of course (of course, who would deny that?), but too officially important, a registered site, classified, documented, explicated, examined, experimented on, watched, sung, celebrated. Vulva: noisy crossroads where all of chattering humankind meets, a tunnel the generations file through. Only the gullible believe in the intimacy of that site, the most public site of all. The only site that is truly intimate, whose taboo even pornographic films respect, is the hole of the ass, the supreme portal; supreme because it is the most mysterious, the most secret.

Pg. 96

· Vincent snatches her and falls with her onto the floor. Her eyes wide, she looks at him, awaiting a penetration she has decided not to resist. She spreads her legs. Closes her eyes. Turns her head slightly to one side. … The penetration did not take place. It did not take place because Vincent’s member is as small as a wilted wild strawberry, as a great-grandmother’s thimble.

Pg. 120

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

· Tomas came to this conclusion: Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).

Pg. 15

· In languages that derive from Latin, “compassion” means: we cannot look on coolly as others suffer; or, we sympathize with those who suffer. Another word with approximately the same meaning, “pity” (French, pitie; Italian, pieta, etc.), connotes a certain condescension towards the sufferer. “To take pity on a woman” means that we are better off than she, that we stoop to her level, lower ourselves.
That is why the word “compassion” generally inspires suspicion; it designates what is considered an inferior, second-rate sentiment that has little to do with love. To love someone out of compassion means not really to love.
In languages that form the word “compassion” not from the root “suffering” but from the root “feeling,” the word is used approximately the same way, but to contend that it designates a bad or inferior sentiment is difficult. The secret strength of its etymology floods the word with another light and gives it a broader meaning: to have compassion (co-feeling) means not only to be able to live with the other’s misfortune but also to feel with him any emotion – joy, anxiety, happiness, pain. This kind of compassion…therefore signifies the maximal capacity of affective imagination, the art of emotional telepathy. In the hierarchy of sentiments, then, it is supreme.

Pg. 20


· He was still looking at her crotch, that tiny little area that, with admirable economy of space, provides for four sovereign functions: arousal, copulation, procreation, urination. He gazed a long while at that sad place with its spell broken, and was gripped by an immense, immense sadness.

Pg. 191


· The transformation of feelings into a value had already occurred in Europe sometime around the 12th century. The troubadours, who sang with such great passion to their beloved, the unattainable princess, seemed so admirable and beautiful to all who heard them, that everyone wished to follow their example by falling prey to some wild upheaval of the heart.

Pg. 194

· It is part of the definition of feeling that it is born in us, without our will, often against our will. As soon as we want to feel (decide to feel just as Don Quixote decided to love Docinea), feeling is no longer feeling, but an imitation of feeling, a show of feeling. This is commonly called hysteria. That’s why homo sentimentalis (a person who has raised feeling to a value) is in reality identical to homo hystericus.

· …every time it is necessary to stuff people’s heads with glory to make them die more willingly.

· The tear in Laura’s eye was a tear of emotion Laura felt over Laura’s determination to sacrifice her whole life to stand by the side of her deceased sister’s husband. The tear in Paul’s eye was a tear of emotion Paul felt over the faithfulness of Paul who could never live with any other woman except the shadow of his dead wife, her likeness, his sister.

Pg. 195

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