“How often had he heard the teacher of Moral Theology preaching in his nasal voice on the subject of Sin, comparing it to the serpent, and exhorting the seminarians, with unctuous words and large gestures, and with the slow, mellifluous pomp of his sentences, to follow the Virgin’s example and trample the ‘vile serpent’ under foot! And then there was the teacher of Mystical Theology who, after taking a pinch of snuff, would speak to them of their duty to ‘conquer Nature’! And quoting from St John Chrysostom and St Chrysologus, St Cyprian and St Jerome, he would explain the saints’ curses against Woman, whom he called, in the language of the Church, Serpent, Sting, Daughter of Lies, Gateway to Hell, Fount of Crime, Scorpion…

‘And as our father Saint Jerome called her,’ and at this point he would always loudly blow his nose, ‘the Path to Iniquity, iniquitas via!’

Even his textbooks were obsessed with Woman! What kind of creature was this, then, who, in theology, was either placed on the altar as the Queen of Grace or had barbarous curses heaped upon her? What power did she have, that this legion of saints should one minute rush to meet her, passionate and ecstatic, unanimously handing over to her the Kingdom of Heaven, and at the next, uttering terrified sobs and cries of loathing, flee from her as if she were the Universal Enemy, hiding themselves in wildernesses and in cloisters so as not to see her and to die there from the disease of having loved her?”

Eça de Queirós, The Crime of Father Amaro


“[…] all he had to do was to observe what the others did or did not do in order to do it or not do it himself, their omissions were his activities, his activities were their omissions, a simple trick in which he had been able to achieve great facility from earliest childhood, by constantly observing everything around him, by a persistently testing and receiving and rejecting of everything other than himself, his character, his mind […]”

Thomas Bernhard, Correction

The Devil’s Death

“The body of Dr. Skomelny was never found. He was so good at hiding his car, that by the time they found it not even the most alert and razor-sharp Leninist superhound could find the trail. Likewise it did not occur to anyone to look for him in a graveyard, in a tomb. A legend spread that the devil took him. May he take the lot of them – and soon!”

Jan Křesadlo, Mrchopěvci

Kindred Spirits

“The mechanic leaned down over the engine again and said, ‘Right in the middle of Prague, Wenceslaus Square, there’s this guy throwing up. And this other guy comes along, takes a look at him, shakes his head, and says ‘I know just what you mean.'”

Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting