Surrealpolitik

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  1. "I mean to say, first, that there's but poor comfort in being able to declare that any given act of violence -- damaging property or destroying life -- is not the work of anarchism at all, but of something else altogether -- some species of authorized scoundrelism. This, I fancy, is much more frequent than we suppose...[T]he existence of these spies amongst the revolutionary groups which we are reproached for harboring here, does away with all certitude."

    Source: The Secret Agent, p. 93
  2. "I should like," Huddleberry was saying, "I should like to write a detective story -- a mystery story...But one in which no one should know what crime had been committed -- nor who had committed it..."

    "That's true of all crimes, isn't it, rather?" asked Charles and watched himself inject a careless laugh, like a hypodermic, into the man's mind. But:

    "No one...There should be a dream quality about it all..." His eye lighted; a rising enthusiasm informed his customarily level tones and he waved his long thin hands in wider gestures -- "A dream quality, yes; a brooding sense of Something -- no one quite knowing what -- but Something dread, and menacing, and terrible. A Something that sets all the boasted power of civilization at naught --," he raised his hand as Charles gave evidence of being about to speak, "--at naught, and mocks the puny strength of men..."

    Source: The Eater of Darkness, p. 142
  3. "I'm dreaming of a city / It was my own invention."...At the same time, a city exists. Another lyric from "What a Day That Was" explodes the dream with fierce actuality: "There are fifty thousand beggars / Roaming in the streets." If your gaze was really steady enough to see what's before you, there might be reasons to wish to leave this place.

    Source: Fear of Music, p. 65
  4. "Men, women, statesmen, courtesans, plotters...and yet, in the mind of each the dread questions are constantly impending -- 'What is it that threatens?' -- 'And for whom?' -- 'If Death, then who shall be the victim?' -- 'Who the murderer?' -- 'Where the scene of the tragedy?' -- 'Shall it be I who will strike the fatal blow?' -- 'Or shall I receive it?' ..."

    He paused again, staring dramatically at the corner of the ceiling. "And the end -- dramatic, inevitable, but veiled in mystery....'Was there a murder?' -- 'Who was the victim?' -- they shall ask, my characters. And as each sinks shudderingly to sleep -- 'Was it I who killed, last night as I thought I slept?' -- 'Am I, even now, am I dead?'... Ah! Yes! It shall be my greatest work, that. It would go well in the American Mercury, don't you think?"

    Source: The Eater of Darkness, p. 144-145
  5. "See is just a movie in your eyes," said Garth. "It's not out in the world."

    "A movie?"

    "It's not out there, it's not dark matter or anything else. It's just in your eyes. A movie. And the only difference is that everyone else has the same movie playing. Cynthia, Philip, Alice, their movies agree. So they can see. You and I are watching the wrong movie, so we're blind."

    Evan and I were silent.

    Source: As She Climbed Across the Table, p. 134
  6. 'Still, I'm convinced he suffered on. Perhaps more.'

    'It seems odd, doesn't it,' Edward had said, 'after he sat on a dung-heap and suffered from skin-sores and put up with his friends' gloating, and lost his family and his cattle, that he should have to go on suffering.'

    'It became a habit,' Harvey said, 'for he not only argued the problem of suffering, he suffered the problem of argument. And that is incurable.'

    Source: The Only Problem, p. 350
  7. 'Sure this Koteks is part of some underground,' he told her a few days later, 'an underground of the unbalanced, possibly, but then how can you blame them for being maybe a little bitter?'

    Source: The Crying of Lot 49, p. 66
  8. More ethical than utopian, surrealist writing and art are at once endlessly playful -- dismembered, self-reflexive, allusive -- and deadly serious. Dislodged from its rationalist claim to define and describe existing appearances, surrealist verbal and visual language constitutes a new form of materialism that entered instead into the more contested realm of thinking. That is, as language described by Maurice Blanchot as "rhetoric become matter," it does not so much state as refract, rearrange, delve, and surpass its own claims...[T]he rifts, disagreements, and exclusions through which surrealism consistently reinvented itself reflect the volatility of a movement bent on challenging the silent pacts that guarantee reality as a verifiable set of givens. At the same time, the outbursts of crime and terror animating surrealist work draw attention to the ways in which violent historical phenomena likewise throw into relief the conflicting systems of representation and understanding used to make sense of them. As a lens for political analysis, the varied public and institutional responses to crime -- from the measurement systems of Bertillon cards to the splashy sensationalism of the penny press -- could certainly be used to problematize the limits and excesses of the immediate cultural order...Approached in this way, crime discourse could do more than reflect contemporary social and political systems; it could form the very language through which the historical forces governing these systems might be rendered concrete.

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 12-13
  9. The victim is a surplus taken from the mass of useful wealth. And he can only be withdrawn from it in order to be consumed profitlessly, and therefore utterly destroyed. Once chosen, he is the accursed share, destined for violent consumption. But the curse tears him away from the order of things; it gives him a recognizable figure, which now radiates intimacy, anguish, the profundity of living beings.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 59
  10. A strange wind was blowing across the plain of his silence, where a wild vegetation was growing, as thirsty as tearless eyelashes, as thirsty as prickly cactuses, as thirsty as trees unrefreshed by rain. What was the meaning of this desire? Why should trees be thirsty when it rains?

    Source: El Senor Presidente, p. 70
  11. All of this [multiple interpretation] is simultaneously true. It is the secret of a discourse that is no longer simply ambiguous, as political discourses can be, but that conveys the impossibility of a determined position of power, the impossibility of a determined discursive position. And this logic is neither that of one party nor of another. It traverses all discourses without them wanting it to.

    Who will unravel this imbroglio? The Gordian knot can at least be cut. The Möbius strip, if one divides it, results in a supplementary spiral without the reversibility of surfaces being resolved (here the reversible continuity of hypotheses). Hell of simulation, which is no longer one of torture, but of the subtle, maleficent, elusive twisting of meaning -- where even the condemned at Burgos are still a gift from Franco to Western democracy, which seizes the occasion to regenerate its own flagging humanism and whose indignant protest in turn consolidates Franco's regime by uniting the Spanish masses against this foreign intervention? Where is the truth of all that, when such collusions admirably knot themselves together without the knowledge of their authors?

    Source: Simulacra and Simulation, p. 17-18
  12. And no face is surrealistic in the same degree as the true face of a city.

    Source: Surrealism: the Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, p. 51
  13. As some topics are in every society precluded from public or even private discussion, taboos are an important element of the collective system of repression. The social function of taboos has therefore to be considered as the stabilizing factor in social and cultural systems...Taboos indicate or represent social control, especially with regard to class, gender, and race, cultural hegemony, the norms and values of legal cultures, or they can express the attitudes and mentalities of subcultures and countercultures.

    Basic conflicts over social norms and values that are taken for granted may then also be subverted or deconstructed by political groups. Thus, Quakers and other religious groups were confronted with "a ban on thought, a form of suppressing a set of political ideas and their utterance by means of censorship and other forms of political and legal repression" (Gurr, this volume), and this despite Milton or Bunyan daring to transgress censorship.

    From chapter: Uwe Boker, Taboo and Transgression: A Socio-Historical and Socio-Cultural Perspective
    Source: Taboo and Transgression in British Literature from the Renaissance to the Present, p. 26
  14. Beirut is tragic but still breathing. London is the true rubble.

    Source: Mao II, p. 129
  15. Effie, meanwhile, went off the rails, and when this was pointed out to her in so many words, she said 'What rails? Whose rails?'

    Source: The Only Problem, p. 362-363
  16. For my own part, I couldn't have said whether she was the waitress we always had here or I'd never seen her before. The invisible are always so resolutely invisible, until you see them.

    Source: Chronic City, p. 211
  17. Half in the world of reality, half in a dream, the Zany ran on, pursued by dogs and by spears of fine rain.

    Source: El Senor Presidente, p. 19
  18. Harvey wondered again if in real life Job would be satisfied with this plump reward, and doubted it. His tragedy was that of the happy ending.

    Source: The Only Problem, p. 481
  19. It is a common Realist sentiment that fiction is to be mistrusted unless it pretends to be something else.

    Source: Realism and Power: Postmodern British Fiction, p. 11
  20. It is useful to make the following three observations about language games. The first is that their rules do not carry within themselves their own legitimation, but are the object of a contract, explicit or not, between players (which is not to say that the players invent the rules). The second is that if there are no rules, there is no game, that even an infinitesimal modification of one rule alters the nature of the game, that a"move" or utterance that does not satisfy the rules does not belong to the game they define. The third remark is suggested by what has just been said: every utterance should be thought of as a "move" in a game. This last observation brings us to the first principle underlying our method as a whole: to speak is to fight, in the sense of playing, and speech acts fall within the domain of a general agonistics.

    Source: The Postmodern Condition, p. 10
  21. It was good to see my student so busy doing what I'd taught him to do. Looking for the hidden data, the facts that hide inside obvious things. The interdisciplinary dark matter. And a protégé confirmed my existence in the world. I felt grateful.

    Source: As She Climbed Across the Table, p. 100
  22. It's not the news that makes the newspaper, but the newspaper that makes the news.

    Source: Numero Zero, p. 60
  23. MOUTH: I don't understand anything about the noises of the next war.

    Source: The Gas Heart, p. 47
  24. Of all conceivable luxuries, death, in its fatal and inexorable form, is undoubtedly the most costly.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 34
  25. Perhaps the absence of myth is the ground that seems so stable beneath my feet, yet gives way without warning...'Night is also a sun', and the absence of myth is also a myth: the coldest, the purest, the only true myth.

    Source: The Absence of Myth, p. 48
  26. Promote a clandestine trade in ideas, of all inadmissible ideas, of unassailable ideas, as the liquor trade had to be promoted in the 1930s. For we are already in a state of full-scale prohibition. Thought has become an extremely rare commodity, prohibited and prohibitive, which has to be cultivated in secret places following esoteric rules.

    Source: The Perfect Crime, p. 106
  27. Reality is a bitch. And that is hardly surprising, since it is the product of stupidity's fornication with the spirit of calculation -- the dregs of the sacred illusion offered up to the jackals of science.

    Source: The Perfect Crime, p. 3
  28. Say: This is real, the world is real, the real exists (I have met it) -- no one laughs. Say: This is a simulacrum, you are merely a simulacrum, this war is a simulacrum -- everyone bursts out laughing. With forced, condescending laughter, or uncontrollable mirth, as though at a childish joke or an obscene proposition. Everything to do with the simulacrum is taboo or obscene, as is everything related to sex or death. Yet it is much rather reality and obviousness which are obscene. It is the truth we should laugh at. You can imagine a culture where everyone laughs spontaneously when someone says: 'This is true', 'This is real'.

    Source: The Perfect Crime, p. 97
  29. Some people dislike seeing their fellow men burning at the stake, and others do not. This point (which was neglected by many Victorian optimists) is important, for it shows that a rational analysis of the consequences of a decision does not make the decision rational; the consequences do not determine our decision; it is always we who decide. But an analysis of the concrete consequences, and their clear realization in what we call our 'imagination', makes the difference between a blind decision and a decision made with open eyes; and since we use our imagination very little, we only too often decide blindly. This is especially so if we are intoxicated by an oracular philosophy, one of the most powerful means of maddening ourselves with words.

    Source: Popper Selections, p. 37
  30. The eating of one species by another is the simplest form of luxury.

    Source: The Accursed Share, p. 33
  31. The great philosopher David Hume had something relevant to say about miracles. He wrote that 'no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.' In other words, the evidence for a miracle is convincing only if alternative explanations are less probable -- and these alternative explanations include fraud, mistakes and so on. Hume went on to say:

    'When any one tells me that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself whether it be more probable that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact which he relates should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority which I discover I pronounce my decision and always reject the greater miracle.'

    Source: The Improbability Principle, p. 44
  32. The issue is not the political content but the form in which it is expressed -- the medium is the message. Adorno put the matter bluntly in Minima Moralia: "the value of a thought is measured by its distance from the continuity of the familiar. It is objectively devalued as this distance is reduced."

    Source: Critical Theory, p. 82
  33. The lady, in esoteric love, matters least. So, too, for Breton. He is closer to the things that Nadja is close to than to her. What are these things? Nothing could reveal more about Surrealism than their canon. Where shall I begin? He can boast an extraordinary discovery. He was the first to perceive the revolutionary energies that appear in the 'outmoded', in the first iron constructions, the first factory buildings, the earliest photos, the objects that have begun to be extinct, grand pianos, the dresses of five years ago, fashionable restaurants when the vogue has begun to ebb from them. The relation of these things to revolution—no one can have a more exact concept of it than these authors. No one before these visionaries and augurs perceived how destitution—not only social but architectonic, the poverty of interiors, enslaved and enslaving objects—can be suddenly transformed into revolutionary nihilism. Leaving aside Aragon's Passage de l'Opera, Breton and Nadja are the lovers who convert everything that we have experienced on mournful railway journeys (railways are beginning to age), on God-forsaken Sunday afternoons in the proletarian quarters of the great cities, in the first glance through the rain-blurred window of a new apartment, into revolutionary experience, if not action. They bring the immense forces of 'atmosphere' concealed in these things to the point of explosion. What form do you suppose a life would take that was determined at a decisive moment precisely by the street song last on everyone's lips?

    Source: Surrealism: the Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, p. 50
  34. The only way to look at Man is as the victim of his mirrors.

    Source: A Wave of Dreams, p. 43
  35. The physics department, Alice included, specialized in the pursuit of tiny nothingness. Soft had the audacity to pursue a big nothingness. If his work succeeded the inflationary bubble would detach and grow into a universe tangential to ours. Another world. It would be impossible to detect, but equally real.

    Source: As She Climbed Across the Table, p. 3-4
  36. We in Washington are accustomed to the petty scandals of Washington politics. However, there is another category of offenses, described by the French poet Andre Chenier as "les crimes puissants qui font trembler les lois," crimes so great that they make the laws themselves tremble.

    [W]hen the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in 1986, both the Congress and the national mainstream media pulled up short. . . . The laws trembled at the prospect of a political trial that threatened to shatter the compact of trust between the rulers and the ruled, a compact that was the foundation upon which the very law itself rested.

    The lesson was clear: accountability declines as the magnitude of the crime and the power of those charged increase.

    Source: October Surprise: America’s Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan, p.
  37. [From a semi-autobiographical novel written by Crevel:] "I accuse memory. Evil comes from what we ignore...so that memory is in reality a hallucination."

    Source: Surrealism and the Art of Crime, p. 72
  38. [Quoting G.K. Chesterton:] A madman is not a man who has lost his reason: he is a man who has lost everything except his reason.

    Source: Paris Peasant, p. 202