No one in his senses supposed that there was any hope for democracy … in a country so divided and exhausted as Spain would be when the war was over. It would have to be a dictatorship … . That meant that the general movement would be in the direction of some kind of Fascism. Fascism called, no doubt, by some politer name…

-George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

[A]t every stage of history our concern must be to dismantle those forms of authority and oppression that survive from an era when they might have been justified in terms of the need for security or survival or economic development but that now contribute to–rather than alleviate–material and cultural deficit.

-Noam Chomsky, On Anarchism

What Amber appeared now to be confiding to him … seemed to Atwater very close to the core of the American experience he wanted to capture in his journalism. … The conflict between the subjective centrality of our own lives versus our awareness of its objective insignificance. [T]his was the central great informing conflict of the American psyche. The management of insignificance. It was the great syncretic bond of US monocultralism. It was everywhere, at the roof of everything — of impatience in long lines, of cheating on taxes, of movements in fashion and music and art, or marketing.

-David Foster Wallace, The Suffering Channel

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart

Every time I go to the library, I get a whole stack of books out. I always do. The limit is something like 30 books at any time, and the library being two bus rides and a few stops on the underground away means I don’t get out there that often. At the same time, I love going there, browsing the shelves, seeing the students always studying, never reading. It’s a trade-off.

Being a book lover and part-time bookseller, I’d come across Absurdistan before but never picked it up. I knew it was satire but for whatever reason never considered it a novel, a story. We have Shteyngart’s most recent book on the display table at work, so when I recognised its shiny, confetti cover in the library I was curious (being a university library, it has a great collection of classic literature but a much smaller collection of new fiction) but thought I should read his earlier work first (they didn’t have his first novel).

I guess if I like Absurdistan, I’ll move on to the ‘shiny’ one.

-Reading the Why

Es war schön und hatte etwas Verlockendes, Macht über Menschen zu haben und vor andern hervorzuglänzen, aber es hatte auch eine Dämonie und Gefahr, und die Weltgeschichte bestand ja aus einer lückenlosen Reihe von Herrschern, Führern, Machern und Befehlshabern, welche mit unendlich seltenen Ausnahmen alle hübsch begonnen und übel geendet, welche alle, wenigstens angeblich, um des Guten willen nach der Macht gestrebt hatten, um nachher von der Macht besessen und betäubt zu werden und sie um ihrer selbst willen zu lieben.

-Hermann Hesse, Glasperlenspiel