Friday, November 08, 2013

#Quotes from Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People*

Ah! - one feels a new man after a meal like that. [12]

A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm. [13]

It is astonishing how little most sailors care about what goes on on shore. [13]

Sailors are like birds of passage; they feel equally at home in any latitude. [13]

Oh well, it is better never to trust anybody; you may find you have been made a fool of before you know where you are. [23]

I am of humble origin, as you know; and that has given me opportunities of knowing what is the most crying need in the humbler ranks of life. [27]

Yes - and in my opinion a journalist incurs a heavy responsibility if he neglects a favourable opportunity of emancipating the masses - the humble and oppressed. I know well enough that in exalted circles I shall be called an agitator, and all that sort of thing; but they may call what they like. If only my conscience doesn't reproach me - [27]

There is one thing I esteem higher than that; and that is for a man to be self-reliant and sure of himself. [31]

Oh, the public doesn't require any new ideas. The public is best served by the good, old established ideas it already has. 36]

What is the use of having right on your side if you have not got might? [41]

When a man has interests of his own to protect, he cannot think of everything. [48]

I have already told you that what I want to speak about is the great discovery I have made lately - the discovery that all the sources of our moral life are poisoned and that the whole fabric of our civic community is founded on the pestiferous soil of falsehood. [69]

The most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom amongst us is the compact majority - yes, the damned compact Liberal majority - that is it! [71]

The majority never has right on its side. Never, I say! That is one of these social lies against which an independent, intelligent men must wage war. Who is it that constitute the majority of the population in a country? Is it the clever folk, or the stupid? I don't imagine you will dispute the fact that at present the stupid people are in an absolutely overwhelming majority all the world over. But, good Lord! - you can never pretend that it is right that the stupid folk should govern the clever ones ... [71]

The majority has might on its side - unfortunately; but right it has not. I am in the right - I and a few other scattered individuals. The minority is always in the right. [71-2]

The truths of which the masses now approve are the very truths that the fighters at the outposts held to in the days of our grandfathers. We fighters at the outposts nowadays no longer approve of them; and I do not believe there is any other well-ascertained truth except this, that no community can live a healthy life if it is nourished only on such old marrowless truths. [73]

The common people are nothing more than the raw material of which a People is made. [74]

[B]road-mindedness is almost precisely the same thing as morality. [76]

Happily the theory that culture demoralises is only an old falsehood that our forefathers believed in and we have inherited. No, it is ignorance, poverty, ugly conditions of life, that do the devil's work! In a house which does not get aired and swept every day - ... - in such a house, let me tell you, people will lose within two or three years the power of thinking or acting in a moral manner. Lack of oxygen weakens the conscience. And there must be a plentiful lack of oxygen in very many houses in this town, I should think, judging from the fact that the whole compact majority can be unconscientious enough to wish to build the town's prosperity on a quagmire of falsehood. [76]

What does the destruction of a community matter, if it lives on lies? It ought to be razed to the ground. [77]

You should never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth. [82]

Oh, well, let the curs snap - that is not the worst part of it. The worst is that, from one end of this country to the other, every man is the slave of his Party. [82]

To be called an ugly name may have the same effect as a pin-scratch in the lung. [85]

The worthy man spoke the truth. A party is like a sausage machine; it mashes up all sorts of heads together into the same mincemeat - fatheads and blockheads, all in one mash! [86]

Public opinion is an extremely mutable thing. [88]

A free man has no right to soil himself with filth; he has no right to behave in a way that would justify his spitting in his own face. [88]

It is a natural law; every animal must fight for its own livelihood. [95]

I only want to drum into the heads of these curs the fact that the liberals are the most insidious enemies of freedom. [98]

A party leader is like a wolf, you see - like a voracious wolf. He requires a certain number of smaller victims to prey upon every year, if he is love live. [98]

It is this, let me tell you - that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. [100]
*An electronic version by the Pennsylvania State University; translation by Farquharson Sharp. Read the review here

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