After an instant’s reflection, she added: “Ultimately, making love isn’t that important.”
Jan’s ears pricked up: “You don’t think making love is that important?”
She smiled at him tenderly: “No, making love is not that important.”
In a moment, he completely forgot what they had been discussing, because he had just learned something that mattered much more: for Edwige, physical love was merely a sign, merely a symbolic act that confirms friendship.” —The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978) by Milan Kundera
Variation form is the form in which concentration is brought to its maximum; it enables the composer to speak only of essentials, to go straight to the core of the matter. A theme for variations often consists of no more than sixteen measures. Beethoven goes inside those sixteen measures as if down a shaft leading into the interior of the earth.
The voyage into that other infinitude is no less adventurous than the voyage of the epic. It is how the physicist penetrates into the wondrous depths of the atom. With every variation Beethoven moves farther and farther away from the initial theme, which resembles the last variation as little as a flower its image under a microscope.
Man knows he cannot embrace the universe with its suns and stars. Much more unbearable is for him to be condemned to lack the other infinitude, that infinitude near at hand, within reach… [A]ll of us are lacking in our work because in pursuit of perfection we go toward the core of the matter but never quite get to it.” —The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978) by Milan Kundera
He longed to run away to a place where he could weave his own story, weave it by himself to his own taste and out of the reach of loving eyes.
And deep down he did not even care about weaving himself a story, he simply wanted to be alone.” —The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978) by Milan Kundera
Dominion over the world, as we know, is divided between angels and devils… If there were too much incontestable meaning in the world (the angel’s power), man would succumb under its weight. If the world were to lose all its meaning (the devil’s reign), we could not live either.
Things deprived suddenly of their supposed meaning… make us laugh. In origin, laughter is thus of the devil’s domain. It has something malicious about it (things suddenly turning out different from what they pretended to be), but to some extent also a beneficent relief (things are less weighty than they appeared to be, letting us live more freely, no longer oppressing us with their austere seriousness).
The first time an angel heard the devil’s laughter, he was dumbfounded. That happened at a feast in a crowded room, where the devil’s laughter, which is terribly contagious, spread from one person to another. The angel clearly understood that such laguhter was directed against God and against the dignity of his works. He knew that he must react swiftly somehow, but felt weak and defenceless. Unable to come up with anything of his own, he aped his adversary. Opening his mouth, he emitted broken, spasmodic sounds in the higher reaches of his vocal range… but giving them an opposite meaning: whereas the devil’s laughter denoted the absurdity of things, the angel on the contrary meant to rejoice over how well ordered, wisely conceived, good, and meaningful everything here below was.
Thus the angel and the devil faced each other and, mouths wide open, emitted nearly the same sounds, but each one’s noise expressed the absolute opposite of the other’s. And seeing the angel laugh, the devil laughed all the more, all the harder, and all the more blatantly, because the laughing angel was infinitely comical.
Laughable laughter is disastrous. Even so, the angels have gained something from it. They have triucked us with a semantic imposture. Their imitation of laughter and (the devil’s) original laughter are both called by the same name. Nowadays we don’t even realize that the same external display serves two absolutely opposed internal attitudes. There are two laughters, and we have no word to tell one from the other.” —The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978) by Milan Kundera
I spoke earlier of a Thomas Mann story: a young man suffering from a mortal illness gets on a train and descends in an unknown town. There is a wardrobe in his room, and every night a painfully beautiful naked woman steps out of it and tells him a long, sweetly sad tale, and that woman and that tale are death.
It is death sweetly bluish, like nonbeing. Because nonbeing is an infinite emptiness and empty space is blue and there is nothing more beautiful and more soothing than blue. Not at all by chance did Novalis, the poet of death, love blue and search for nothing else on his journeys. Death’s sweetness is blue in colour.” —The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978) by Milan Kundera