“It suddenly occurred to me that every move on the chessboard is old and has been played by somebody at some time. Maybe our own history has been played out by somebody at some time, and we just move our pieces about in the same moves to strike in the same way as people have always done.”
~Karel Čapek, War with the Newts
“Man discovers a species of giant, intelligent newts and learns to exploit them so successfully that the newts gain skills and arms enough to challenge man’s place at the top of the animal kingdom.” More on Goodreads
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“[S]urely the Cupid serving him was lefthanded, with a weak chin and no imagination.”
~Vladimir Nabokov, Laughter in the Dark
“‘Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.’ Thus begins Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark; this, the author tells us, is the whole story except that he starts from here, with his characteristic dazzling skill and irony, and brilliantly turns a fable into a chilling, original novel of folly and destruction.
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“I’m waiting for the victory of decency, then I could make myself available.”
~Erich Kästner, Going to the Dogs. The Story of a Moralist (Informally translated)
“Originally published in German in 1931 and in an expurgated English translation in 1932, this novel is the tale of Jacob Fabian, a Berlin advertising copywriter doomed in the context of economic, ethical, and political collapse by his characteristic mixture of detachment and decency.
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“Understanding is strictly forbidden. Even dreams have the right to dream.”
~Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Memories of the Future
“Written in Soviet Moscow in the 1920s—but considered too subversive even to show to a publisher—the seven tales included here attest to Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s boundless imagination, black humor, and breathtaking irony:
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“I have seen apes only at the fair, they must perform tricks, are chained up, a bitter fate, no human has one so hard.”
~Alfred Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz
The novel concerns the story of Franz Biberkopf, an ex-convict, who balances between his past in the underworld and his wish to become decent in the 1920’s Berlin. Döblin uses montage techniques to enhance the effect of the pulsing metropolis by making use of newspaper articles, songs, speeches, and other books.
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“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”
~Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
“This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army of World War I. These young men become enthusiastic soldiers, but their world of duty, culture, and progress breaks into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.
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“…‘I am interested in everything,’ interrupted Gumbril Junior. ‘Which comes to the same thing,’ said his father parenthetically, ‘as being interested in nothing.”
~Aldous Huxley, Antic Hay
“Antic Hay is one of Aldous Huxley’s earlier novels, and like them is primarily a novel of ideas involving conversations that disclose viewpoints rather than establish characters; its polemical theme unfolds against the backdrop of London’s post-war nihilistic Bohemia. This is Huxley at his biting, brilliant best, a novel, loud with derisive laughter, which satirically scoffs at all conventional morality and at stuffy people everywhere, a novel that’s always charged with excitement.” More on Goodreads
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