Books, what are you reading right now?

I watched the South Park episode, that’s all I need to know, really.



At one time we dared not even whisper. Now we write and read samizdat
and sometimes when we gather in the smoking room of the Science
Institute we complain frankly to one another. What kind of tricks are they
playing on us, and where are they dragging us? There is gratuitous boasting
of cosmic achievements while poverty and destruction exist at home.
Propping up remote uncivilised regimes. Fanning up civil war. And we
recklessly fostered Mao Tse-tung (at our expense) — and we shall be the
ones sent to war against him and we will have to go. Is there any way out?
They put anybody they want on trial and put sane people in asylums -
always they; we are powerless.

Things have almost reached rock-bottom. A universal spiritual death has
already touched us all and physical death will soon flare up and consume us
and our children. But, as before, we still smile in a cowardly fashion and
mumble with our tongues tied. What can we do to stop it? We haven’t the
strength. We have been so hopelessly dehumanised that for today’s ration of
food we are willing to abandon all our principles, our souls and the efforts
of our predecessors, as well as all the opportunities for our descendants,
Just don’t disturb our fragile existence!

We lack resolution, pride and enthusiasm. We don’t even fear universal
nuclear death, nor do we fear a third world war — perhaps we can hide in
crevices. We just fear acts of civil courage. We are afraid to lag behind the
herd and to take one step alone — and suddenly to find ourselves without
white bread, heating gas and a Moscow registration. What was drummed in
our ears at political courses we have now internalised: live comfortably and
all will be well ever after. You cannot escape your environment and social
conditions. Existence determines consciousness. What does it have to do
with us? We cannot do anything about it.

But we can! We lie to ourselves to preserve our peace of mind. It is
not they who should be blamed but ourselves. One can object, but cannot
imagine what to do. Gags have been stuffed into our mouths. Nobody
wants to listen to us and nobody asks our opinion. How can we force them
to listen to us? It is impossible to change their minds. It would be logical
to vote them out of office, but there are no elections in our country. In the
West people resort to strikes and protest demonstrations, but we are too
downtrodden and it is too horrifying for us. How can one suddenly
renounce a job and take to the streets? Other fatal paths tested during the
last century by our bitter Russian history are even less suitable for us, and
truly we do not need them.

Now that the axes have done their work and everything that was sown
has sprouted, we can see that the young and presumptuous people who
thought they would make our country just and happy through terror,
bloody rebellion and civil war were themselves misled. No thanks, fathers
of enlightenment! Now we know that infamous methods breed infamous
results . . . Let our hands be clean!

Is the circle closed? Is there really no way out? Is there only one thing
left to do - to wait without taking any action? Maybe something will
happen by itself. But it will never happen as long as we daily acknowledge,
extol and strengthen — and do not sever ourselves from — the most
perceptible of its aspects: lies. When violence intrudes into peaceful life,
its face glows with self-confidence, as if it were carrying a banner and
shouting: ‘I am violence. Run away, make way for me — I will crush you.’
But violence quickly grows old. After only a few years it loses confidence
in itself, and in order to maintain a respectable face it summons falsehood
as its ally — since violence can conceal itself with nothing except lies, and
the lies can be maintained only by violence. Violence does not lay its paw
on every shoulder every day: it demands from us only obedience to lies and
daily participation in lies. And this submissiveness is the crux of the matter.
The simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation is this:
personal non-participation in lies. Though lies may conceal everything,
though lies may control everything, we should be obstinate about this one
small point: let them be in control but without any help from any of us.
This opens a breach in the imaginary encirclement caused by our inaction.
It is the easiest thing for us to do and the most destructive for the lies.
Because when people renounce lies it cuts short their existence. Like
a virus, they can survive only in a living organism.

Let us admit it: we have not matured enough to march into the squares
and shout the truth out loud or to express aloud what we think. It is not
necessary. It’s dangerous. But let us refuse to say what we do not think.
This is our path, the easiest and the most accessible one, which allows for
our inherent, well-rooted cowardice. And it is much easier (it’s shocking
even to say this) than the sort of civil disobedience that Gandhi advocated.

Our path is not that of giving conscious support to lies about anything at
all. And once we realise where the perimeters of falsehood are (everyone
sees them in his own way), our path is to walk away from this gangrenous
boundary. If we did not paste together the dead bones and scales of
ideology, if we did not sew together rotting rags, we would be astonished
how quickly the lies would be rendered helpless and would subside. That
which should be naked would then really appear naked before the whole

So in our timidity, let us each make a choice: whether to remain
consciously a servant of falsehood (of course, it is not out of inclination but
to feed one’s family that one raises one’s children in the spirit of lies), or to
shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect from one’s
children and contemporaries.

And from that day onward he:
• will not sign, write or print in any way a single phrase which in his
opinion distorts the truth
• will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation nor in public,
neither on his own behalf nor at the prompting of someone else,
neither in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, nor as an actor
• will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea in which he can see
a distortion of the truth, whether it be in painting, sculpture,
photography, technical science or music
• will not cite out of context, either orally or in writing, a single
quotation to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success
in his work, if he does not completely share the idea which is quoted,
or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue
• will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations and
meetings if they are contrary to his desire
• will immediately walk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance
or film if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense
or shameless propaganda
• will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which
information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.

I have not enumerated, of course, all possible and necessary ways of
avoiding lies, but whoever begins to cleanse himself will easily apply the
cleansing pattern to other cases. It will not be the same for everybody at
first. Some will lose their jobs. But there are no loopholes for anybody who
wants to be honest. On any given day, any one of us, even those securely
working in technical sciences, will be confronted with at least one of the
above choices. Either truth or falsehood: towards spiritual independence
or towards spiritual servitude.

And he who is not sufficiently courageous to defend his soul - don’t let
him be proud of his ‘progressive’ views, and don’t let him boast that he is
an academician or a people’s artist, a distinguished figure or a general. Let
him say to himself: I am a part of the herd and a coward. It’s all the same
to me as long as I’m fed and kept warm.

Even this path — the most moderate of all paths of resistance — would
not be easy for those of us who have become too set in our ways. But it
would be far easier than a hunger strike or a self-immolation. The flames
would not touch your body, your eye would not burst from the heat and
your family should always be able to get black bread and fresh water.

Has not the great European nation Czechoslovakia — betrayed and
deceived by us — demonstrated how even an armourless breast, if it holds
a worthy heart, can stand up to the onslaught of tanks?

This would not be an easy path, but the easiest of all possible ones. Not
an easy path — but there are people among us, dozens of them, who have
been observing all these conditions for years and who live by the truth.

Therefore you will not be the first to take this path, you will join
others! It will be easier and shorter if we embark on it in great and friendly
numbers. If we are in thousands it will not be possible for them to do
anything to anyone. If we are in tens of thousands we will not recognise
our own country!

If we are too frightened, then we should stop complaining that we are
being suffocated. We are doing this to ourselves. If we bow down even
further and wait longer, our brothers the biologists may then help to bring
nearer the day when our thoughts can be read and our genes restructured.

If we are too frightened to do anything, then we are hopeless and
worthless people and the lines of Pushkin fit us well:
What use to the herds the gifts of freedom?
The scourge, and a yoke with tinkling bells
— this is their heritage, bequeathed to every generation.

Moscow, 12 February 1974


I’m absolutely tRiGGeReD!!!1! by this post. How dare you post something like that???

Without fixing the ends of lines. Have you tried resizing your browser window? No, of course you haven’t. Your PrIViLeGe is showing!111!!

The contents of the post is fine, though, I agree with every word.


Looks like copy/paste from PDF. I hate it how PDF breaks reflow, although I understand their need to do so in order to ensure 100% cross-platform unchanged look.

@keybreak This content is a bit off-topic for this forum.

Strictly speaking, it was what he was reading at the time so it was on-topic in this particular topic. However, he could have just posted a link instead of confounding us with the line breaks :exploding_head:


They call me keybreak!



You didn’t break my keys :keyboard: just my eyes :eyes:

Couldn’t put this down. Tore through it in one sitting. Thrilling and fun

1 Like

Being a PhD student, I can barely keep up with reading anything outside of my field. But I recently started to read আগুনপাখি (Agunpakhi, roughly translates to The Phoenix) by হাসান আজিজুল হক (Hasan Azizul Huq). It’s an account of the Indian partition written from the perspective of a poor rural woman. I’m loving it so far. The way the author writes in a very rural accent gives authenticity to the characters.

Honestly though, the books that I have to read most of the time are academic. For example, I’ve been going through Lectures on Modular Forms and Hecke Operators by Ribet-Stein for the last month or so. It’s a fairly advanced set of lecture notes trying to provide some links between modular forms and elliptic curves, and essentially motivating the modularity theorem. I like the way they talk about the computational aspects of the theorems as it’s usually ignored by most authors.

Does manga count as a book?

I’m in the middle of book 5 of the Berserk manga. Not usually a fan of manga or comics but this one is good.

As for “real” books I’m currently awaiting House of Leaves to come to my library. Heard a lot of good things about that book.

Currently reading Samsung Rising. Pretty good so far.

I’m in an ancient Greece phase. Peter Green - Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic age.

A late (2007) popular work from the classic scholar Peter Green (born in 1924), and a nice read. Especially in that it treats Alexanders influence in the whole of the hellenistic age, from the successor kingdoms and up til Rome conquering Greece.


he writes as poetic as an angel and as cynical as the devil