Quotes from The Sleepwalkers

Hermann Broch ·  648 pages

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“Are we, then, insane because we have not gone mad?”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“Children have a more restricted and yet a more intense feeling for nature than grown-ups.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“the irrational invalidates any meaning attached to it.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“It is almost a matter of no account how far Marguerite will penetrate, whether she will ever be brought back or whether she will fall a prey to some wandering tramp—the sleepwalking of the infinite has seized upon her and never more will let her go.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“The man who is thus outside the confines of every value-combination, and has become the exclusive representative of an individual value, is metaphysically an outcast, for his autonomy presupposes the resolution and disintegration of all system into its individual elements; such a man is liberated from values and from style, and can be influenced only by the irrational.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“Do thyself no harm! for we are all here!”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“when the great intolerance of faith was lost, the secular robe of office had to supplant the sacred one, and society had to separate itself into secular hierarchies with secular uniforms and invest these with the absolute authority of a creed. And because, when the secular exalts itself as the absolute, the result is always romanticism, so the real and characteristic romanticism of that age was the cult of the uniform, which implied, as it were, a superterrestrial and supertemporal idea of uniform, an idea which did not really exist and yet was so powerful that it took hold of men far more completely than any secular vocation could, a non-existent and yet so potent idea that it transformed the man in uniform into the property of his uniform, and never into a professional man in the civilian sense; and this perhaps simply because the man who wears the uniform is content to feel that he is fulfilling the most essential function of his age and therefore guaranteeing the security of his own life.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“Ennen vanhaan vain kirkko oli ihmisten mahtava tuomari, ja jokainen tiesi olevansa syntinen. Nyt pitää syntisen tuomita toinen syntinen, jotta kaikki arvot eivät rappeutuisi anarkiaksi, eikä veli enää voi vain itkeä veljen kanssa, vaan hänen on sanottava tälle: "Olet tehnyt väärin." Ja jos ennen vain pappismiehen asu erottui muista jotenkin epäinhimillisenä, ja jopa univormussa ja virkapuvussakin oli silloin vielä jotakin siviilimäistä, niin sittemmin, kun uskon suuri suvaitsemattomuus oli mennyttä, piti maallisen virka-asu nostaa taivaallisen sijaan ja yhteiskunnan piti jakautua maallisiin hierarkioihin ja univormuihin ja kohottaa absoluuttisuuteen uskon sijasta. Ja koska romantiikkaa aina on juuri se että maallinen kohotetaan absoluuttiseksi, niin tämän aikakauden varsinaista aitoa romantiikkaa on univormuromantiikka, ikään kuin olisi olemassa ylimaallinen ja yliajallinen univormun aate, jota ei ole ja joka silti on niin voimallinen että se saa ihmisen valtaansa paljon voimakkaammin kuin mikään maallinen ammatti tai kutsumus konsanaan, se on ei-olemassaoleva ja silti niin voimakas aate, että se tekee univormunkantajasta univormun riivaamaan, vaikka hän ei koskaan ole ammatti-ihminen siviilien tarkoittamassa mielessä; ja näin on koska univormun kantaja syvästi tiedostaa että juuri hän parhaiten edustaa oman aikansa varsinaista elämänmuotoa ja siten myös turvaa oman elämänsä.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“Incapable of communicating himself to others, incapable of breaking out of his isolation, doomed to remain the mere actor of his life, the deputy of his own ego—all that any human being can know of another is a mere symbol, a symbol of an ego that remains beyond our grasp, possessing no more value than that of a symbol; and all that can be told is the symbol of a symbol, a symbol at a second, third, nth remove, asking for representation in the true double sense of the word.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“it is always he, unfortunate wretch, who assumes the rôle of executioner in the process of value-disintegration, and on the day when the trumpets of judgment sound it is the man released from all values who becomes the executioner of a world that has pronounced its own sentence.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“Wer vermag fröhlicher zu sein als ein Kranker? nichts zwingt ihn, sich dem Lebenskampf zu stellen, es steht ihm sogar frei zu sterben. Er ist nicht gezwungen, aus den Ereignissen, die der Tag ihm zuträgt, induktive Schlüsse zu ziehen, um danach sein Verhalten einzurichten, er darf in sein eigenes Denken eingesponnen bleiben, - eingesponnen in die Autonomie seines Wissens, darf er deduktiv, darf er theologisch denken. Wer vermag fröhlicher zu sein als der, der seinen Glauben denken darf!”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“IN the year 1888 Herr von Pasenow was seventy, and there were people who felt an extraordinary and inexplicable repulsion when they saw him coming towards them in the streets of Berlin, indeed, who in their dislike of him actually maintained that he must be an evil old man. Small, but well”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“No one can see another in the darkness, Esch, and that cloudless clarity of yours is only a dream. You know that I cannot keep you beside me, much as you fear your loneliness. We are a lost generation. I too can only go about my business.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“Young man, until you know that all names are false you know nothing; not even the clothes on your body are what they seem to be.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“That year it seemed as if the summer were never coming to an end: days of shimmering golden stillness followed each other in equal radiance, as if by their sweetness and peace they wanted to make the war, now in its bloodiest period, appear doubly insensate. As the sun dipped behind the chain of mountain peaks, as the sky paled into tenderer blue, as the road stretched away more peacefully and all life folded in upon itself like the breathing of a sleeper, that stillness grew more and more accessible and acceptable to the human soul. Surely that Sabbath peace lay over the whole of the German fatherland, and in a sudden uprush of yearning the Major thought of his wife and children whom he saw walking over the sunset fields. "I wish this were all over and done with," and Esch could not find any word of comfort for him. Hopeless and dreary this life seemed to both of them, its sole meagre return a walk in the evening landscape which they were both contemplating. It's like a reprieve, thought Esch. And so they went on in silence.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“It is as if Protestantism by clinging to the Scripture wished to preserve the last faint echoes of God’s Word in a world that has fallen silent, a world where only things speak dumbly, a world delivered over to the silence and ruthlessness of the Absolute, - and in his fear of God the Protestant has realized that it is his own goal before which he cowers. For in excluding all other values, in casting himself in the last resort on an autonomous religious experience, he has assumed a final abstraction of a logical rigour that urges him unambiguously to strip all sensory trappings from his faith, to empty it of all content but the naked Absolute, retaining nothing but the pure form, the pure, empty and neutral form of a 'religion in itself', a 'mysticism in itself'.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“As she wanders along the river like this, one hand on her hip and the other clutching a mark to defray her expenses, she is in well-known country.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“A man who sacrifices himself must be a decent chap.”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

“The unreal is the illogical. And this age seems to have a capacity for surpassing even the acme of illogicality, of anti-logicality: it is as if the monstrous reality of the war had blotted out the reality of the world. Fantasy has become logical reality, but reality evolves the most a-logical phantasmagoria. An age that is softer and more cowardly than any preceding age suffocates in waves of blood and poison-gas; nations of bank clerks and profiteers hurl themselves upon barbed wire; a well-organized humanitarianism avails to hinder nothing, but calls itself the Red Cross and prepares artificial limbs for the victims; towns starve and coin money out of their own hunger; spectacled school-teachers lead storm-troops; city dwellers live in caves; factory hands and other civilians crawl out on their artificial limbs once more to the making of profits. Amid a blurring of all forms, in a twilight of apathetic uncertainty brooding over a ghostly world, man like a lost child gropes his way by the help of a small frail thread of logic through a dream landscape that he calls reality and that is nothing but a nightmare to him.

The melodramatic revulsion which characterizes this age as insane, the melodramatic enthusiasm which calls it great, are both justified by the swollen incomprehensibility and illogicality of the events that apparently make up its reality. Apparently! For insane or great are terms that can never be applied to an age, but only to an individual destiny. Our individual destinies, however, are as normal as they ever were. Our common destiny is the sum of our single lives, and each of these single lives is developing quite normally, in accordance, as it were, with its private logicality. We feel the totality to be insane, but for each single life we can easily discover logical guiding motives. Are we, then, insane because we have not gone mad?”
― Hermann Broch, quote from The Sleepwalkers

About the author

Hermann Broch
Born place: in Vienna, Austria
Born date November 1, 1886
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