Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Favorite Quotations from David Bergelson's Judgment

Here are few favorite passages from David Bergelson's beautifully written novel, Judgment.


"Large, invisible hands merrily picked up whole heaps of snow and just as merrily released them."

"Above them was the broken, jagged sky, as if made from silent mountains;  from the smoky clouds a young, limping moon hurried the riders along."

"The full, brass moon with the face of a cadaver was swimming and floating above them.  It had no eyes but wanted to see."

"In the deep darkness naked branches clattered.  A hoarse cry of pain broke from the disheveled trees.  The events hidden in the nooks and crannies of the countryside seemed to be riffling through their leaves. It sounded as if the rustling was causing someone pain."

"To the right of Golikhovke, a young forest noisily awoke from the wind that swept through it over the fields."

"The cloudy sky cut a deep, rusty gash into the corner of the horizon."


"He acquired this habit after the revolution took the wrong turn when he decided:  What is this revolution? In a word, it's Kamino-Balke."

"...he slept through the revolution's evil waking hours, as if to spite it;  he snored as a sign that between him and the revolution all bridges had been burned."

""Rrrrree....vv....vv....o....o....lluu....shshsh...un!' This was the word the doctor had taught the deaf-mute just three years earlier, in the first, festive weeks of the revolution.  By this time the doctor had long since been dissatisfied with it;  the word 'revolution' grated in his ears, it was claptrap and dangerous besides.  The doctor scowled when he heard it and winked to the deaf-mute that he ought not to say it.  But taking away from the deaf-mute was a lot harder than giving it for good."

" But I am certain:  death is death.  My life right now is all I get.  I will never have anything else.  And the revolution is my death.  That's why I'm running away from it."

"'The times we love in," he said, 'if you knew someone yesterday, that doesn't mean you know who he is today.'"

"People just didn't know how to live in times like these."

"'In the past men like Filopov didn't exist, which means he's playing a role, that's it...A comedian, that's what he is."

"Every time he put a piece of gauze in a patent's mouth, he would run to the window to check whether the current regime had been abolished."

"...life 'got rerouted onto a strange crooked path."

"'The times we live in!' he'd say to her with a chuckle.  "Even knowing something they grab you and whip you just the same as if you'd done nothing.'"

"Because a journey of a mere four or five hours gets you to a place where the revolution is over, do you understand, doctor? There, on the other side, it snows every morning, just like here.  Only it's a different kind of snow, whiter and freer, a snow from the other side, spring will be in full bloom there. Somewhere in the a city at the seashore music will be playing--just music, without speeches."

"'The revolution,' he said, 'is a sack.  We keep on patching it up, but you here at the border are like mice, nibbling away.  You are eating out a hole at the edge of the sack and everything's going to spill out...What do you think--that we're joking with you?"

"'From the revolution...he says he has the authority from the revolution to reduce everyone standing here to ashes, and all of Golikhovke, too."

"He's saying not to get in the revolution's way."

"When he ordered some one's death, when he gave the command, 'Shoot!'--there was no wisdom that could dissuade him, because it wasn't Filipov who was giving the orders. It was History."

"All was lost, everything had turned out badly:  he was riding in some strange wagon--he was the unwilling passenger of a conveyance that belonged to the revolution."

"...the entire revolution that was simmering and boiling in all of the big cities."

"But he had no choice, because he was obliged to do the revolution's bidding, without having agreed to it.  Whether he wanted to or not, he had to follow the revolution..."

"'It's high time, my darling, that you got married,' he told her.  'Then you could have some children to take care of.  We have a revolution here--this is no place to play with dolls.'"

"There, the revolution was no longer in charge--its last strength had flickered and was going out."

Descriptions of Characters

"If the doctor didn't get up and tell him--'Enough!'--the deaf-mute would flood the whole world with pancakes."

"...--she was gypsy dark with big gold hoops in her ears, with a pair of eyes that always looked exhausted, worn out from her own beauty."

"Her eyes were innocent, as kosher as two crucifixes."

"Her powdered nose began to flirt with the doctor."

"Her eyelids smiled."

"The smugglers--looking very proper yet very suspicious--seethed with the resentment befitting highly respectable people."

"Frizzy beards, crooked faced, bent shoulders, and backs twisted from shrewdness--these were the homeowners."

"His arms were hairy and thin;  his fingers, long and shiny, as if he had just been digging through the innards of a roast chicken.."

"Bluish red veins covered his face, like the hind parts of a cow that had just been slaughtered.  The eyes on the face were diseased;  the eyelids were two red, oozing pieces of rotting flesh."

Breakdown of Animate/Inanimate Dichotomy

"A wagon rolled into the courtyard.  The clanking of its wheels on the uneven, frozen road gave the impression that the wagon had something to fear, even though it didn't want to be afraid.  The doctor, too, felt that he had something to fear, even though he didn't want to be afraid."

"The houses were buried deep in the snow.  Like wrestlers in the ring too exhausted to throw their opponents, they remained hunched over in their corners."

"..everything he did was measured and coldblooded, like the storm."

"He was standing next to the door, freezing, as if he were a dirty piece of the cold, gloomy street..."

"Abandoned buildings peered out from all the dark corners."

"Dirty hours stretched slowly before someone's sentencing--just like the dirty snow trampled in the courtyards."


"Everything that had taken place in his life now seemed to him foul, cold, and frozen, like the world around him.  His life was like the dirty snow that lay on the fields, dotted here and there with heaps of trash, like the crows, which flew over them, and the entire cavernous emptiness near the border."

"Going round in circles in the dusty cracks and ruts of his life made the doctor deeply uneasy, as if he had accompanied his own funeral procession and was considering the impression it made."

"..coming to terms with his own insignificance released him from the burden of helping anyone else."

"It seemed that the clock was counting out his last minutes..."

"'Myself, I haven't seen my mother in eighteen years, and I haven't died from it yet."

"Now, when the deep night infused him with its strong potion of slumber, it would have been easy to follow those steps and not notice you were following them, to be killed and not realize that you were being killed."

"something awakened them from their sleep, something nameless that ripped pieces of flesh from their bodies and brains."

"'Let me spit in your face exactly the same number of times that he kissed you.'"

Self-contained Stories

"Since the age of sixteen, he had been ready to sacrifice his life to the workers' movement.  And now the movement was going to shoot him."

"The blonde was fasting.  Since the early morning she had been kneeling and bowing her forehead to the ground in a stubborn resolve not to move from her place until she prayed her way into a miracle."

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