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  • Writer's pictureCorbin Allardice

Commonplace Book 6: Stanisław Brzozowski

(Note: Today's entry consists of Varshe's translation of the Polish philosopher Stanisław Brzozowski. Unfortunately, the latter is all but as little translated into English as the former, so today's post will not have any direct translations from the source. Lucky for any yiddishists who fall in love with Brzozowski (a rather strange event in my opinion), one of his novels was translated into Yiddish in 1928.)


The greatest adversary is a life without historical purpose--a soft, withered subjectivism.

Der grester soyne iz a lebn on a historishn tsil--a veykher, tsekrokhner subyektivizm.


We are only real when we are powerful and strengthening human power. Otherwise our life is--a lie, and our thought--an attempt to depict that life as if it were true.

Mir zenen epes virklekhs, nor zaynendik a makht un farshtarkndik dem mentshns makht. Anit iz undzer lebn--a lign, un undzer gedank--a pruv dem dozikn lebn oysmoln vil an emes.


We must put everything to the test of a heavy hammer and a raging fire. All that is weak ought perish.

Men darf alts oyspruvn mit a shvern hamer, in a flakerdikn fayer. Alts vos shvakh iz zol umkumer.


Our adversary is everything which is not ruled and depends only on itself, both within ourselves and without; our adversary is every natural state: naked elements; naked soul.

Undzer faynd iz alts, vos iz nit bahersht, zikh-aleyn-ibergelozn say in in undz, say oyster undz; undzer faynd iz yeder natur-tsushtand: nakete stikhye; nakete neshome.


We want not pity nor sympathy for our misfortunes--we want sin!

Nit keyn rakhmones viln mir, nit keyn aynzeenish mit undzer umglik--zind viln mir!


A nation which dies out has no problems. There is nothing to be afraid of--clarity comes, and the rest of the old and impotent.

A folk, vos kumt um, hot nit keyn problemen. Es shrekt zikh far gornisht--s’kumt di klorkayt, di ru fun onmekhtik-alte.


Say a war is waged--the hunchbacked should be dismissed, those esteemed, elderly paralytics musn’t be allowed to lead.

S’geyt a milkhome--zoln hinkendike avegeyn, zoln ge’erte altitshke-paralitiker keyn firer nit zayn.


Whosoever has no power in themself knows not of truth. In that man, every truth becomes a lie, concealing his impotence.

Ver s’hot nit in zikh keyn shum kraft--veys nit fun keyn emes. Yeder emes vert in im a lign, vos darf farborgn zayn onmakht.


The world is not built of fantasy, but of something harder than iron, terrible and eternally silent, something which is never [identical with] our self, our soul, but is always foreign, an enemy who besets us at every turn. To live and persist in this world--that is freedom. Everything else is a puppet play, the wisdom of children, dancers and acrobats, words written on the sand.

Nit fun khaloymes iz di velt geboyt, nor fun epes, vos iz harter fun ayzn, shreklekh un eybik-shvaygndik, vos iz keynmol nit undzer ikh,, undzer neshome, nor shtendik fremd, a soyne vos balagert undz af ale undzere vegn. In ir, in der doziger velt, lebn un blaybn--dos iz frayhayt. Ales iberiker iz varyete, di hokhme fun kinder, tentser un springer, verter afn zamd geshribene.


One who is born and raised in a particular national folk will never be able to live outside of that nation. He will either save his soul within that nation, or he will perish. The nation is not, however, a death sentence; it must become a source of strength or it is worthless.

Der vos iz geboyrn un dertsoygn gevorn in a gevisn folk, vet shoyn nit kenen lebn oyser zayn folk. Oder in im vet er retn zayn neshome, oder er vet fargeyn. Dos folk iz ober nit epes fatales, es darf zayn a kraft, oder es vert--nit.


Our right to exist does not consist in recognizing our vocation, but in creating it.

Undzer rekht af lebn iz nit in’m derkenen undzer baruf, nor in’m bashafn im.


The master of life is one, and only one, who can become a power in themself and rule over the vital forces.

Har fun lebn iz nor der, vos ken aleyn a kraft vern, un di lebns-kreftn bahershn.


That which you wish to avoid is not important, all that is important is that which you create in the surrounding night, and what she, the night who eternally creates something of her own, thinks about you and yours-

Vikhtik iz nit, vos du vilst oysmaydn, nor vos du bashafst in der arumiker nakht, un vos trakht zi vegn dir un daynem, zi--di nakht, vos bashaft shtendik epes irs.



Only he who has forged a conquering soul out of his irrational aspirations, he who remains standing against the chaos which surrounds and besets him, only he can speak to me of the self.

Nor der hot a rekht tsu zogn ikh vegn zikh, ver es ken fun zayn irratsionaln shtrebn tsu zikh oyshmidn a zigraykhe neshome un blaybn er antkegn dem khaos, vos bafalt im fun ale zaytn.


A society which does not exist as an irrational condition of the soul collapses; it will accomplish nothing.

A gezelshaft, vos lebt nit vi an irratsionaler tsushtand fun neshome, tsufalt; zi vet shoyn gornisht ufton.


Before every soul stands the question: by what power do you live? In what do you seek redemption? And if you do not wish to betray your sould, then you must create that form of life in which your soul can live in you, thereby becoming a power against [other] powers and a victor over the attacks of the world.

vos far a kraft lebstu? In vos zukhstu dayn derleyzung? Un vilt ir nit farratn di eygene neshome, muzt ir shafn aza form fun lebn, vos zol hobn di neshome in zikh, un derbay zayn a kraft kegn kreftn, un kegn dem onfal fun der velt--a ziger.


The source of truth is a feeling that all of our experiences, every action, remains in our life, that something once experienced lives forever.

Der shoyresh fun emes iz a gefil, dos yede iberlebung undzere, yede tat, blaybt in undzer lebn, az dos vos eynmol ibergelebt lebt eybik.


Our time’s thought desires a life of justice. [Today’s] man desires self-consciousness, as if, every time his soul trembled, he was joining in a real and endless battle. He makes a resolve every moment, and that, which he resolves, remains. Everything becomes a single tragic truth. The epic honesty of battle becomes but an atmosphere.

Der gedank fun undzer tsayt vil a lebn in rekht. Der mentsh vil hobn dos bavustzayn, az mit yedn tsiter fun zayn neshome nemt er an onteyl in a virklekhn unufherlekhn kamf. Yede rege, antsheydt er epes, un dos, vos er antsheydt, blaybt. Alts vert eyntsik, tragish-emes. Epishe erlekhkayt fun kamf vert an atmosfere.


Catholicism has the conviction that every individual life is a moment in an eternal battle, that the saved wage against the devil, against sin. What a person thinks about themself, or what others think of them is not important, but what they experience in themself, in lonely solitude. The deepest universalism and the sense of the infinite worth of every soul are unified in Catholicism. Every soul is equally significant in the face of that higher reality: Christ, who redeemed the world.

Katolitsizm hot di ibertsaygung, az dos lebn fun yedn eyntsikn mentshn iz a moment in an eybikn kamf, vos di derleyzte mentshhayt firt kegn sotn, kegn zind, vikhtik iz nit, vos der mentsh trakht vegn zikh, oder andere vegn im, nor vos er lebt iber in zikh, in der eynzamkayt. In’m katolitsizm iz fareynikt der tifster universalizm mitn gefil fun’m unendlikhn vert fun yeder eyner neshome. Iz dokh yede neshome glaykh-badaytend in’m ongezikht fun der hekhster virklekhkayt: khristus, vos hot zi derleyzt.


Whosoever wants to be a shadow shall pass like a shadow!

Ver es vil a shotn zayn, vet vi a shotn fargeyn!


When a person ceases to have ends, he lives only by emotion--the metric he uses to measure everything. Then the differences between thought and phenomenon dies in him. He lives in a unity--the unity of the passive, the unity of the physical.

Hert uf a mentsh tsu hobn tsiln, lebt er nor emotsionel, un mit der mos mest er alts--leshn zikh in im oys di untersheydn tsvishn gedankn un dershaynungen. Er lebt in an eynhayt--in der eynhayt fun pasivn, fun fiziologishn.


Religious and tragic is every decision.

Religyez un tragish iz yeder bashlos.


A necessary condition of a moral life if the feeling of struggle and responsibility.

A noytvendike badingung fun a moralishn lebn iz dos gefil fun kamf un farantvortlekhkayt.


He who has no intellectual honesty knows nothing of spiritual [psychic, mental] life. If a person does not birth his thoughts on his own recognizance, if he simply tosses about his thoughts without internal criteria, if conceptual contradictions do not awaken in him the burning desire to resolve them--then he is no longer a thinking self--the great human worth has been ruined in him.

Der vos hot nit in zikh keyn intelektuele erlekhkayt, veys nit fun keyn gaystikn lebn. Gebirt nit a mentsh zayne gedanken af zayn eygener farantwortlekhkayt, farvarft er gedanken on an ineveynikster badingung, dervekt gedanken-vidershprukhn in im nit keyn brenendikn kheyshek tsu bafrayen zikh fun zey--iz er nit mer a denkender ikh--in im iz khorev gevorn a groyser mentshlekher vert.


To be an individual is to not be at peace with yourself; to live is to be logically incoherent. Brand is the same Peer Gynt, but without talent. One loses himself in dazzling variegation, the other--in the illusion of systematic coherence. He who no longer wants to serve, who wants to true to his mental self refuses a life under the sun. Ibsen feels that he plays a cheater’s game in the face of women and love; in the erotic we are not mental, but elemental--and that creates the mental.

For Ibsen, however, psychological dialectic replaces life.

Zayn an individualitet heyst nit zayn in sholem mit zikh; lebn heyst nit konsekvent zayn. Brand iz der zelber pier gint nor on talant. Yener farlirt zikh in’m filfarbikn, der--in der sistematisher, konsekventer iluzye. Fun emesn lebn in der zun zogt zikh op der mentsh, vos vil nit mer vi dinen, zayn tray zayn psikhishn ikh. Ibsen filt, az in ongezikht fun der froy un libe shpilt er a falshe shpil; in’m erotishn zenen mir nit psikhik, nor stikhye, velkhe bashaft psikhik.

Ba ibsen’n ober iz anshtot lebn--psikhologishe dialektik.


All romance is a lie and a scam in the face of the erotic, and immature and unripe in the face of death

Yede romantik iz a lign un a shvindl in’m ongezikht fun erotishn, un epes unreyfes in’m ongezikht fun toyt.


Characteristic of people from a higher race is the calm with which they act in the sphere of the absolutely living and absolutely concrete, the sphere of the non-schematic and the non-logical.

Kharakteristish far mentshn fun a hekherer rase iz di ru, mit velkher zey virkn in’m absolut-lebedikn, absolut-konkretn, in dem nit-skhematishn, in dem nit logishn.


There is no purely theoretical thinking; everything in the human consciousness must be accounted for. Every thought is a form of interpersonal relation.

Es iz nito keyn reyn-teoretishn gedanken; alts vos iz in’m mentshlekhn bavustzayn muz barekhtikt zayn. Yeder gedank iz a form fun tsvishn-mentshlekhe batsiungen.


If we do not consciously act in [and on] the historical, we become a plaything of the physiological, which decieves and misleads us.

Shafn mir nit bavustzinik in’m geshikhtlekhn--vern mir a shpiltsayg fun’m fizologishn, vos nart un farfirt undz.


Whoever acts as if his heart is an organ of the infinite must be ready for the moment when, suddenly, his belief dies down; his life falls apart, God is silent, and everything is absurd and senseless. Ask yourself: is it true that God once spoke to your soul and that his word once lived in our heart; If so, then we now find ourselves in a foreign world, and nothing binds us to it.

Ver es makht zayn harts far an organ fun der unendlekhkayt, darf zayn greyt tsu di minutn, ven plutsling lesht zikh oys der gloybn; dos lebn iz antrunen, got shvaygt, un mit dir iz unzin. Fregst zikh: iz emes, az got hot amol geredt tsu der neshome, un zayn vort hot gelebt in undzer harts; den mir shteyn itst in a fremder velt, un gornisht farbindt undz mit ir.


Our life, our subjectivity is a fortress, if we leave it, then it is forever lost to humanity.

Undzer lebn, undzer ikh iz a festung; farlozn mir zi--farlirt zi di mentshhayt af eybik.


Understand nothing--conquer everything; not understanding--deed!

Gornisht derkenen--alts derobern; keyn derkentnish--tat!


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