Milan Kundera quotes

  • The Greek word for "return" is nostos. Algos means "suffering." So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Mean #Greek #Suffering

  • Dreaming is not merely an act of communication; it is also an aesthetic activity, a game of the imagination, a game that is a value in itself.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Dream #Communication #Games

  • Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Love #Nature #Peace

  • The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was... The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Memories #Struggle #Book

  • You can't measure the mutual affection of two human beings by the number of words they exchange.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Love #Two #Numbers

  • Unlike the puerile loyalty to a conviction, loyalty to a friend is a virtue - perhaps the only virtue, the last remaining one.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Loyalty #Lasts #Virtue

  • When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Inspirational #Heart #Mind

  • The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Strength #Memories #Struggle

  • Humanity's true moral test, its fundamental test…consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Attitude #Animal #Humanity

  • Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Love Is #Half #Longing

  • Once the writer in every individual comes to life (and that time is not far off), we are in for an age of universal deafness and lack of understanding.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Life #Understanding #Age

  • Eroticism is like a dance: one always leads the other.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Dance

  • Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Love #Sleep #Passion

  • The goals we pursue are always veiled. A girl who longs for marriage longs for something she knows nothing about. The boy who hankers after fame has no idea what fame is. The thing that gives our every move its meaning is always totally unknown to us.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Girl #Moving #Boys

  • There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, "sketch" is not quite a word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Life #Mean #Decision

  • The emotion of love gives all of us a misleading illusion of knowing the other.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Knowing #Giving #Emotion

  • He took over anger to intimidate subordinates, and in time anger took over him.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Conflict #Intimidating #Resolution

  • The sound of laughter is like the vaulted dome of a temple of happiness.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Laughter #Domes #Temples

  • The novelist's ambition is not to do something better than his predecessors but to see what they did not see, say what they did not say.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Writing #Ambition #Creative

  • People fascinated by the idea of progress never suspect that every step forward is also a step on the way to the end.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Motivation #Inspiration #Ideas

  • Necessity knows no magic formulae-they are all left to chance. If a love is to be unforgettable, fortuities must immediately start fluttering down to it like birds to Francis of Assisi's shoulders.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Love Is #Bird #Magic

  • we might also call vertigo the intoxication of the weak. aware of his weakness, a man decides to give in rather than stand up to it. he is drunk with weakness, wishes to grow even weaker, wishes to fall down in the middle of the main square in front of everybody, wishes to be down, lower than down.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Fall #Men #Squares

  • And I ran after that voice through the streets so as not to lose sight of the splendid wreath of bodies gliding over the city, and I realized with anguish in my heart that they were flying like birds and I was falling like a stone, that they had wings and I would never have any.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Fall #Heart #Sight

  • it is wrong to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences... but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life a dimension of beauty.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Men #Mysterious #Coincidence

  • In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Sunset #Auras #Nostalgia

  • The very beginning of Genesis tells us that God created man in order to give him dominion over fish and fowl and all creatures. Of course, Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped for himself over the cow and the horse.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Horse #Men #Order

  • The purpose of the poetry is not to dazzle us with an astonishing thought, but to make one moment of existence unforgettable and worthy of unbearable nostalgia.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Dazzle #Unbearable #Purpose

  • Ah, ladies and gentlemen, a man lives a sad life when he cannot take anything or anyone seriously.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Men #Sad Life #Gentleman

  • Only the most naive of questions are truly serious.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Serious

  • We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under . . . The fourth category, the rarest, is the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Eye #People #Dreamer

  • So she stood naked in front of the young man and at this moment stopped playing the game.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Men #Games #Naked

  • I understand you, and I shall not attempt to make you change your mind. I am too old to want to improve the world. I have told you what I think, and that is all. I shall remain your friend even if you act contrary to my convictions, and I shall help you even if I disagree with you.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Thinking #Mind #World

  • To laugh is to live profoundly.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Laughing #Chaos

  • On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Lying #Chaos #Surface

  • It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, convictions, faith, history. Human life -- and herein lies its secret -- takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Lying #Secret #Littles

  • A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Unhappy #Life Is #Persons

  • For everyone is pained by the thought of disappearing, unheard and unseen, into an indifferent universe, and because of that everyone wants, while there is still time, to turn himself into a universe of words.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Want #Unseen #Disappear

  • Seeing is limited by two borders: Strong light, which blinds, and total darkness.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Strong #Two #Light

  • Tereza's mother never stopped reminding her that being a mother meant sacrificing everything. Her words had the ring of truth, backed as they were by the experience of a woman who had lost everything because of her child. Tereza would listen and believe that being a mother was the highest value in life and that being a mother was a great sacrifice. If a mother was Sacrifice personified, then a daughter was Guilt, with no possibility of redress.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Daughter #Mother #Children

  • The longing for Paradise is man's longing not to be man.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Men #Paradise #Longing

  • Einmal ist keinmal, says Tomas to himself. What happens but once, says the German adage, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Life #Might #Adages

  • Darling, my darling, don't think that I don't love you or that I didn't love you, but it's precisely because I love you that I couldn't have become what I am today if you were still here. It's impossible to have a child and despise the world as it is, because that's the world we've put the child into. The child makes us care about the world, think about it's future, willingly join in its racket and its turmoils, take its incurable stupidity seriously.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Children #Love You #Thinking

  • When a private talk over a bottle of wine is broadcast on the radio, what can it mean but that the world is turning into a concentration camp?
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Mean #Wine #Bottles

  • People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It's not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Past #People #Political

  • To be a writer does not mean to preach a truth, it means to discover a truth.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Mean #Writing #Doe

  • People are going deaf because music is played louder and louder, but because they're going deaf, it has to be played louder still.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Reality #People #Deaf

  • My lifelong ambition has been to unite the utmost seriousness of question with the utmost lightness of form.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Ambition #Form #Lifelong

  • Nothing requires a greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of non-thought.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Effort #Argument #Justify

  • You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Art #Imagination #Modern

  • No matter how much we scorn it, kitsch is an integral part of the human condition.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Kitsch #Matter #Human Condition

  • We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Warning #Actors #Cold

  • For a novelist, a given historic situation is an anthropologic laboratory in which he explores his basic question: What is human existence?
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Novelists #Historic #Given

  • Optimism is the opium of the people.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Optimism #People #Opium

  • Happiness is the longing for repetition.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Happiness #Laughter #Joy

  • All great novels, all true novels, are bisexual.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Bisexual #Novel

  • Hate traps us by binding us too tightly to our adversary.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Hate #Human Nature #Traps

  • The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #People #Stupidity #Answers

  • Metaphors are dangerous. Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Love #Dream #Memories

  • The worth of a human being lies in the ability to extend oneself, to go outside oneself, to exist in and for other people.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Lying #People #Ability

  • The man hunched over his motorcycle can focus only on the present... he is caught in a fragment of time cut off from both the past and the future... he has no fear, because the source of fear is in the future, and a person freed of the future has nothing to fear.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Cutting #Past #Men

  • The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful ... Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Beautiful #Memories #Brain

  • The degree of slowness is directionally proportional to the intensity of memory. The degree of speed is directionally proportional to the intensity of forgetting.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Memories #Degrees #Forget

  • How could she feel nostalgia when he was right in front of her? How can you suffer from the absence of a person who is present? You can suffer nostalgia in the presence of the beloved if you glimpse a future where the beloved is no more
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Suffering #Glimpse #Nostalgia

  • She was experiencing the same odd happiness and odd sadness as then. The sadness meant: We are at the last station. The happiness meant: We are together. The sadness was form, the happiness content. Happiness filled the space of sadness.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Sadness #Space #Together

  • There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Age #Moments #Certain

  • Man can only be certain about the present moment. But is that quite true either? Can he really know the present? Is he in a position to make any judgment about it? Certainly not. For how can a person with no knowledge of the future understand the meaning of the present? If we do not know what future the present is leading us toward, how can we say whether this present is good or bad, whether it deserves our concurrence, or our suspicion, or our hatred?
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Men #Hatred #Certain

  • Our dreams prove that to imagine - to dream about things that have not happened - is among mankind's deepest needs.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Dream #Needs #Imagine

  • Yes, it's a well-known fact about you: you're like death, you take everything.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Relationship #Sex #Facts

  • loves are like empires: when the idea they are founded on crumbles, they, too, fade away.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Ideas #Empires

  • ...no one can do a thing about feelings, they exist and there's no way to censor them. We can reproach ourselves for some action, for a remark, but not for a feeling, quite simply because we have no control at all over it.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Feelings #Way #Action

  • Love is a continual interrogation. I don’t know of a better definition of love.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Love Is #Definitions #Definition Of Love

  • I think, therefore I am' is the statement of an intellectual who underrates toothaches.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Thinking #Intelligent #Intellectual

  • ... characters are not born like people, of woman; they are born of a situation, a sentence, a metaphor containing in a nutshell a basic human possibility that the author thinks no one else has discovered or said something essential about.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Character #Thinking #People

  • Mysticism and exaggeration go together. A mystic must not fear ridicule if he is to push all the way to the limits of humility or the limits of delight.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Humility #Together #Delight

  • Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naive of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limit of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Children #Answers #Limits

  • Chance and chance alone has a message for us. Everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. Only chance can speak to us.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Messages #Chance #Speak

  • But when the strong were too weak to hurt the weak, the weak had to be strong enough to leave.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Hurt #Strong #Enough

  • But isn't it true that an author can write only about himself?
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Writing

  • The ludicrous element in our feeling does not make them any less authentic.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Feelings #Doe #Elements

  • The more vast the amount of time we've left behind us, the more irresistible is the voice calling us to return to it.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Voice #Return #Calling

  • The characters in my novels are my own unrealised possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Character #Borders #Possibility

  • Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Jealousy #Dog #Evil

  • Without the meditative background that is criticism, works become isolated gestures, historical accidents, soon forgotten.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Historical #Criticism #Gestures

  • The greater the ambiguity, the greater the pleasure.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Pleasure #Ambiguity

  • Oh lovers! be careful in those dangerous first days! once you've brought breakfast in bed you'll have to bring it forever, unless you want to be accused of lovelessness and betrayal.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Betrayal #Forever #Breakfast

  • Do you realize that people don't know how to read Kafka simply because they want to decipher him? Instead of letting themselves be carried away by his unequaled imagination, they look for allegories — and come up with nothing but clichés: life is absurd (or it is not absurd), God is beyond reach (or within reach), etc. You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Art #Imagination #People

  • The combination of a frivolous form and a serious subject immediately unmasks the truth about our dramas.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Drama #Serious #Form

  • And therein lies the whole of man's plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Happiness #Running #Time

  • Mankind's real moral test, a test so radical and so deep that it escapes our gaze, is probably the one of its relations with those that are the most at its mercy; the Animals.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Real #Animal #Tests

  • I want you to be weak. As weak as I am.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Want #Weak #I Want You

  • Two people in love, alone, isolated from the world, that's beautiful.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Love #Beautiful #Two

  • Fortunately, I read (the books) without knowing what I was in for, and the best thing that can ever happen to a reader happened to me: I loved something that, by conviction (or by my nature) I should not have loved
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Book #Knowing #Conviction

  • Only animals were not expelled from Paradise.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Animal #Paradise

  • To ensure that the self doesn't shrink, to see that it holds on to its volume, memories have to be watered like potted flowers, and the watering calls for regular contact with the witnesses of the past, that is to say, with friends.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Friendship #Memories #Flower

  • A man is responsible for his ignorance.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Ignorance #Men #Responsible

  • Memory does not make films, it makes photographs.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Memories #Doe #Film

  • To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Letting Go #Dog #Stress

  • There is no perfection only life
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Perfection

  • There is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one's own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels for someone, for someone, pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echos.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Pain #Compassion #Imagination

  • she loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. It had the same significance for her as an elegant cane for the dandy a century ago. It differentiated her from others.
    -- Milan Kundera

    #Book #Arms #Century