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

The most empowering Milan Kundera quotes that are glad to read

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.


The Greek word for "return" is nostos.

Algos means "suffering." So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.


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.


The basis of shame is not some personal mistake of ours, but the ignominy, the humiliation we feel that we must be what we are without any choice in the matter, and that this humiliation is seen by everyone.


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.


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.


Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness.

What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being.


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.


The worst thing is not that the world is unfree, but that people have unlearned their liberty.


When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.


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).


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.


About Milan Kundera

Quotes 375 sayings
Nationality Czechoslovakian
Profession Writer
Birthday October 16

In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.


I feel a frantic desire to free myself. To start all over again and in another way.


The love between dog and man is idyllic, dogs were never expelled from paradise.


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.


We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.


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


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


All great novels, all true novels, are bisexual.


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.


Nudity is the uniform of the other side... nudity is a shroud.


The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.


Happiness is the longing for repetition.


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.


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


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


In the mind of a woman for whom no place is home the thought of an end to all flight is unbearable.


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.


Optimism is the opium of the people.


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.


Hate traps us by binding us too tightly to our adversary.


Dogs do not have many advantages over people, but one of them is extremely important: euthanasia is not forbidden by law in their case; animals have the right to a merciful death.


Two people in love, alone, isolated from the world, that's very beautiful.

But what would they nourish their intimate talk with? However contemptible the world may be, they still need it to be able to talk together.


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 at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.


It does take great maturity to understand that the opinion we are arguing for is merely the hypothesis we favor, necessarily imperfect, probably transitory, which only very limited minds can declare to be a certainty or a truth.


Sensuality is the total mobilization of the senses: an individual observes his partner intently, straining to catch every sound.


A worker may be the hammer's master, but the hammer still prevails.

A tool knows exactly how it is meant to be handled, while the user of the tool can only have an approximate idea.


And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?


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.


A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person.


Living for Sabina meant seeing. Seeing is limited by two borders: strong light, which blinds, and total darkness. Perhaps that was what motivated Sabina's distaste for all extremism. Extremes mean borders beyond which life ends, and a passion for extremism, in art and in politics, is a veiled longing for death.


Cemeteries in Bohemia are like gardens.

The graves are covered with grass and colourful flowers. Modest tombstones are lost in the greenery. When the sun goes down, the cemetery sparkles with tiny candles... no matter how brutal life becomes, peace always reigns in the cemetery. Even in wartime, even in Hitler's time, even in Stalin's time.


Merely by being born intelligent, you right away find yourself in absolute exile.


Two people in love, alone, isolated from the world, that's beautiful.


The longing for Paradise is man's longing not to be man.


The sound of laughter is like the vaulted dome of a temple of happiness.


On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth.


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.