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Birds Without Wings Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières
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Birds Without Wings Quotes Showing 1-30 of 43
“Where does it all begin? History has no beginnings, for everything that happens becomes the cause or pretext for what occurs afterwards, and this chain of cause and pretext stretches back to the Palaeolithic age, when the first Cain of one tribe murdered the first Abel of another. All war is fratricide, and there is therefore an infinite chain of blame that winds its circuitous route back and forth across the path and under the feet of every people and every nation, so that a people who are the victims of one time become the victimisers a generation later, and newly liberated nations resort immediately to the means of their former oppressors. The triple contagions of nationalism, utopianism and religious absolutism effervesce together into an acid that corrodes the moral metal of a race, and it shamelessly and even proudly performs deeds that it would deem vile if they were done by any other.”
Louis de Bernieres, Birds Without Wings
“Man is a bird without wings and a bird is a man without sorrow.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“Beauty is precious, you see, and the more beautiful something is, the more precious it is; and the more precious it is the more it hurts us that it will fade away; and the more we are hurt by beauty, the more we love the world.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“Your lips are like sugar
And your cheeks an apple
Your breasts are paradise
And your body a lily.

O, to kiss the sugar
To bite the apple
To reveal paradise
And open the lily.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“... so many nominal Christians throughout history, took no notice whatsoever of the key parable of Jesus Christ himself, which taught that you shall love your neighbour as you love yourself, and even those that you have despised and hated are your neighbours. This never made any difference to Christians, since the primary epiphenomena of any religion’s foundation are the production and flourishment of hypocrisy, megalomania and psychopathy, and the first casualties of a religion’s establishment are the intensions of its founders. One can imagine Jesus and Mohammed glumly comparing notes in paradise, scratching their heads and bemoaning their vain expense of effort and suffering, which resulted only in the construction of two monumental whited sepulchres. ...”
Louis de Bernieres, Birds Without Wings
“How strange that the world should change because of words, and words change because of the world”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“You and I once fancied ourselves birds, and we were happy even when we flapped our wings and fell down and bruised ourselves, but the truth is that we were birds without wings. You were a robin ad I was a blackbird, and there were some who were eagles, or vultures, or pretty goldfinches, but none of us had wings.

For birds with wings nothing changes; they fly where they will and they know nothing about borders and their quarrels are very small.

But we are always confined to earth, no matter how much we climb to the high places and flap our arms. Because we cannot fly, we are condemned to do things that do not agree with us. Because we have no wings we are pushed into struggles and abominations that we did not seek, and then, after all that, the years go by, the mountains are levelled, the valleys rise, the rivers are blocked by sand and the cliffs fall into the sea.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“In deference to such spectacular carnage it is perhaps perverse to dwell upon one person's death, but we are creatures so constituted that the passing of one friend or one acquaintance has a profounder effect that that of 100,000 strangers. If there is any metaphorical truth in the Jewish proverb that he who saves one life saves the whole world, then there is equal metaphorical truth in the proposition that when one person dies, the whole world dies with them.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“There comes a point in life where each one of us who survives begins to feel like a ghost that has forgotten to die at the right time, and certainly most of us were more amusing when we were young. It seems that age folds the heart in on itself. Some of us walk detached, dreaming on the past, and some of us realize that we have lost the trick of standing in the sun. For many of us the thought of the future is a cause for irritation rather than optimism, as if we have had enough of new things, and wish only for the long sleep that rounds the edges of our lives”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
tags: life
“I have an opinion about holy war, which in general I must keep to myself. I have no wish to be known as a heretic. It is....that if a war can be holy, then God cannot. At best a war can only be necessary.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“That's how a woman wins a mans heart, by making him think that he amuses her.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“He gets into the habit of thinking so passionately at night that he begins to be persecuted by insomnia.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“The couple sat side by side on cushions on the floor, quietly eating breakfast from the low table. They munched in happy and enjoyable silence, of the kind that grows like a vine through the long years of a good marriage, so that when everything that needs to be said has already been pronounced, it is mutually understood that there is an intimate silence that has its own loquacity.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“Money has no religion except itself.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“Moreover it is one of the greatest curses of religion that it takes only the very slightest twist of a knife tip in the cloth of a shirt to turn neighbours who have loved each other into bitter enemies.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“Mustafa Kemal drily reminds his co-conspirators that the object is not to die for the revolution, but to live for it.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“All war is fratricide, and there is therefore an infinite chain of blame that winds its circuitous route back and forth across the path and under the feet of every people and every nation, so that a people who are the victims of one time become the victimisers a generation later, and newly liberated nations resort immediately to the means of their former oppressors.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“What do you learn at school, then?"
"We learn about the Prophet and his three hundred authenticated miracles,and about Abraham and Isaac and Jonah and Omar and Ali and Hind and Fatima and the saints, and sometimes the big battles of Saladin against the barbarians. And we recite the Holy Koran because we have to learn al-Fatihah by heart."
"What's that?"
"It's the beginning."
"What's it like?"
Karatavuk closed his eyes and recited:'Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim...' When he's finished he opened his eyes, and mopped his forehead. "It's difficult" he observed.
"I didn't understand any of it" complained Mehmetcik. " It sounds nice though. was it language?"
"Of course it was language, stupid. It's Arabic."
"What's that then?"
"It's what Arabs speak. And it's what God speaks, and that's why we have to learn to recite it. It's something about being merciful and the Day of Judgement and showing us the right path, and if anything is going wrong, or you're worried, or someone's sick, you just have to say al-Fatihah and everything will probably be all right."
"I didn't know that God spoke language." observed Mehmetcik. Father Kristoforos speaks to him in Greek, but we don't understand that either."
"What do you learn, then."
"We learn more than you," answered Mehmetcik self-importantly. "We learn about Jesus Son of Mary and his miracles and St Nicholas and St Dmitri and St Menas and the saints and Abraham and Isaac and Jonah and Emperor Constantine and Alexander the Great and the Marble Emperor, and the great battles against barbarians, and the War of Independence, and we learn reading and writing and adding up and taking away and multiplication and division."
"Don't you learn al-Fatihah,then?"
"When things go wrong we say 'Kyrie elesion'. and we've got a proper prayer as well."
"What's that like?"
Mehmetcik screwed up his eyes in unconcious imitation of his friend, and recited: 'Pater imon, o en tois ouranis, agiasthito to onoma sou, eltheto i vasileia sou..'
When Mehmetcik has finished, Karatavuk asked, "What's that about, then? is that some kind of language?"
"It's Greek. It's what we speak to God.I don't know exactly what it means, it's something about our father who is in heaven and forgive us our daily bread, and led us not into temptation, but it doesn't matter if we don't understand it, because God does"
"Maybe," pondered Karatavuk, " Greek and Arabic are actually the same language, and that's how God understands us, like sometimes I'm Abdul and sometimes I'm Karatavuk, and sometimes you're Nico and sometimes you're Mehmetcik, but it's two names and there's only one me and there's only one you, so it might be all one language that's called Greek sometimes and Arabic sometimes.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“Thus the headstrong German Shepherd dog, Fritz, and Moritz, the Barbaryy ape, innocently and gallantly defending his mate, plunge Greece into a political void.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“for the bird that cannot soar, God has provided low branches.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“There was between 1821 and 1913 a prolonged and atrocious holocaust which we have chosen to forget, and from which we have learned absolutely nothing. In 1821, between 26 March and Easter Sunday, in the name of liberty, the southern Greek Christians tortured and
massacred 15,000 Greek Muslim civilians, looted their possessions, and burned their dwellings. The Greek hero Kolokotronis boasted without qualm that so many were the corpses that his horse’s hooves never had to touch the
ground between the town gates of Athens and the citadel. In the Peloponnese, many thousands of Muslims, mainly women and children, were rounded up and butchered. Thousands of shrines and mosques were destroyed, so that even now there are only one or two left in the whole of Greece.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“There comes a point in life where each one of us who survives begins to feel like a ghost that has forgotten to die at the right time,”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“You can’t be pretty forever, you know that? But you can always be beautiful.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“It is said that in those days one could hear seventy languages in the streets of Istanbul. The vast Ottoman Empire, shrunken and weakened though it now was, had made it normal and natural for Greeks to inhabit Egypt, Persians to settle in Arabia and Albanians to live with Slavs. Christians and Muslims of all sects, Alevis, Zoroastrians, Jews, worshippers of the Peacock Angel, subsisted side by side in the most improbable places and combinations. There were Muslim Greeks, Catholic Armenians, Arab Christians and Serbian Jews. Istanbul was the hub of this broken-felloed wheel, and there could be found epitomised the fantastical bedlam and babel, which although no one realised it at the time, was destined to be the model and precursor of all the world's great metropoles a hundred years hence, by which time Istanbul itself would, paradoxically, have lost its cosmopolitan brilliance entirely. It would be destined, perhaps, one day to find it again, if only the devilish false idols of nationalism, that specious patriotism of the morally stunted, might finally be toppled in the century to come.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“He felt his throat constrict. and was overcome with an emotion that he could not name. because it was a mixture of so many.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“Do you know the strangest thing about being a soldier? It is that you are repeatedly ordered to commit suicide. and you obey.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“entailment of the family estates, but envisaged for himself”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“He noticed that a bedraggled and desiccated pink poppy was growing out of a crack where the wall of the teacher’s house intersected with the cobbles of the street.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“Sergeant Pietro Oliva was a good Catholic. He liked to go into a church and cross himself, genuflect to the alter, and then settle down to a little prayer and contemplation, savouring the coolness, the heavy odours, the darkness, and the sensation of being soaked in the atmosphere of centuries’ worth of devotion that hung in the tenebrous and golden air of churches.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings
“The dead can read tears.”
Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings

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