From Ethiopia and Angola (The Negus and Another Day of Life–books which I no longer have because Félicie and Pierre have devoured them!
On foreign correspondence:
All those who could were fleeing Angola. I was bent on going there. (Another Day of Life, p. 1)
As I see it, it’s wrong to write about people without living at least a little of what they are living through. (60)
In a rich country, money is a piece of paper with which someone buys something at the market. A person is only a client. Even a milliionare is only a client like all the others; he can afford to buy more things, but he stays a client and nothing more.
but in a poor country? In a poor country, money is marvellous, fragrant, eternally flowery, which protects from all harm. Thanks to it, you don’t see the rampante? poverty, you don’t smell the stink of misery or hear the voices of the crowd far below.
When you are rich, you see your country like an exotic land. You’re amazed by everything–the way of life, the people, their worries. You tell yourself if isn’t possible. More and more often, you repeat to yourself that it simply can’t be possible. Because you belong to another world, and you aren’t ignorant of the law that says two worlds cannot meet or understand each other, you become deaf and blind.
On revolution (reading this makes you worry about Western society)
People actually never rise up because they are made to carry a burden that is too heavy. They don’t rise up because they are exploited, because they don’t know any life without exploitation, that people can live without exploitation. How can someone aspire to something that does not exist in their imagination? The peasant rises up only when someone suddenly throws a second sack on his shoulders. At that point he can’t restrain himself, he falls face down in the mud, certainly, but he gets right back up and arms himself with an axe. … A person doesn’t arm himself with an axe to defend his pocket, but to defend his humanity. (The Negus, p.140)
The emperor…understood that sadness could lead to reflection, to contestation, to whistles, to disorder. That is why he ordered that distractions, spectacles, masquerades and balls be organized in the empire. He even lit up the palace and offered banquets to the poor, encouraged them to celebrate. Their lives fullof food and dancing, they sang the praises of His Majesty. … Only the thinkers, seeing life become reduced, more drab, more moldy around them, didn’t put their hearts or their heads into the celebrations. They exhorted the others to think. But the others…had more sense, and didn’t let themselves get dragged down. (142)
A man who has been starved for his entire existence will never revolt…on the other hand, as soon as someone has as much food as he needs, he revolts if someone tries to take his bowl away. (160)
The starving person is obsessed by his empty stomach. He only spends the little strength he has in order to eat. He doesn’t have his mind on enjoying himself and he doesn’t succumb to the temptation of disobedience. Who destroyed the empire? Who reduced it to dust? It wasn’t the haves or the have-nots, but rather those who had a little (161)
People fell, but on the inside they stayed standing; people lay on the ground, but in their thoughts they were seated; people were humble and submissive, but deep down, their hearts rebelled. (168)