Friday, October 19, 2007

600 pages of aphorisms

As I read more Custine, it becomes easier to see why he's difficult to read than the typical travel writer. He is always striving for the pithy saying.

"To make a great nation is infallibly to create an architecture."

That's buried in the middle of a paragraph, when it should either begin or end one. Plus, I'm not sure it's true. His point is that the architecture of St. Petersburg is all borrowed from other countries, is not an authentic expression of the Russian culture. He's probably right about that.

Maxim de la Rochefoucauld and Nicolas de Chamfort are two of the greatest aphorists in history. Pascal and Voltaire weren't bad either. They make it look so easy. But they didn't bury their gems in 600 page tomes.

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