„To literary critics a book is assumed to be guilty until it proves itself innocent.“

Last update June 3, 2021. History
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Nelson Algren30
American novelist, short story writer 1909 - 1981

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„Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, but the tests that have to be applied to them are not, of course, the same in all cases.“

—  George Orwell English author and journalist 1903 - 1950

"Reflections on Gandhi" (1949)
Context: Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, but the tests that have to be applied to them are not, of course, the same in all cases. In Gandhi's case the questions one feels inclined to ask are: to what extent was Gandhi moved by vanity — by the consciousness of himself as a humble, naked old man, sitting on a praying mat and shaking empires by sheer spiritual power — and to what extent did he compromise his own principles by entering politics, which of their nature are inseparable from coercion and fraud? To give a definite answer one would have to study Gandhi's acts and writings in immense detail, for his whole life was a sort of pilgrimage in which every act was significant.

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Octavio Paz photo

„Their piety is as abject as their justice. Am I innocent? I'm guilty. Am I guilty? I'm innocent. (I'm innocent when I'm guilty, guilty when I'm innocent. I'm guilty when … but that is another song. Another song? It's all the same song.) Guilty innocent, innocent guilty, the fact is I quit.“

—  Octavio Paz Mexican writer laureated with the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature 1914 - 1998

The Clerk's Vision (1949)
Context: The world stretches out before me, the vast world of the big, the little, and the medium. Universe of kings and presidents and jailors, of mandarins and pariahs and liberators and liberated, of judges and witnesses and the condemned: stars of the first, second, third and nth magnitudes, planets, comets, bodies errant and eccentric or routine and domesticated by the laws of gravity, the subtle laws of falling, all keeping step, all turning slowly or rapidly around a void. Where they claim the central sun lies, the solar being, the hot beam made out of every human gaze, there is nothing but a hole and less than a hole: the eye of a dead fish, the giddy cavity of the eye that falls into itself and looks at itself without seeing. There is nothing with which to fill the hollow center of the whirlwind. The springs are smashed, the foundations collapsed, the visible or invisible bonds that joined one star to another, one body to another, one man to another, are nothing but a tangle of wires and thorns, a jungle of claws and teeth that twist us and chew us and spit us out and chew us again. No one hangs himself by the rope of a physical law. The equations fall tirelessly into themselves.
And in regard to the present matter, if the present matters: I do not belong to the masters. I don't wash my hands of it, but I am not a judge, nor a witness for the prosecution, nor an executioner. I do not torture, interrogate, or suffer interrogation. I do not loudly plead for leniency, nor wish to save myself or anyone else. And for all that I don't do and for all that they do to us, I neither ask forgiveness nor forgive. Their piety is as abject as their justice. Am I innocent? I'm guilty. Am I guilty? I'm innocent. (I'm innocent when I'm guilty, guilty when I'm innocent. I'm guilty when … but that is another song. Another song? It's all the same song.) Guilty innocent, innocent guilty, the fact is I quit.

Edward Teller photo

„A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective.“

—  Edward Teller Hungarian-American nuclear physicist 1908 - 2003

Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991) by Edward Teller, Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley, Ch. 5, p. 69 footnote

Iain Banks photo

„A guilty system recognizes no innocents.“

—  Iain Banks, Culture series

Source: Culture series, The Player of Games (1988), Chapter 2 “Imperium” (p. 215).
Context: A guilty system recognizes no innocents. As with any power apparatus which thinks everybody’s either for it or against it, we’re against it. You would be too, if you thought about it. The very way you think places you among its enemies. This might not be your fault, because every society imposes some of its values on those raised within it, but the point is that some societies try to maximize that effect, and some try to minimize it. You come from one of the latter and you’re being asked to explain yourself to one of the former. Prevarication will be more difficult than you imagine; neutrality is probably impossible. You cannot choose not to have the politics you do; they are not some separate set of entities somehow detachable from the rest of your being; they are a function of your existence. I know that and they know that; you had better accept it.

Adam Smith photo

„Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.“

—  Adam Smith, book The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Section II, Chap. III.
The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), Part II

Terry Goodkind photo

„Pity for the guilty is treason to the innocent.“

—  Terry Goodkind, Faith of the Fallen

The Romantic Manifesto (1969)
Source: Faith of the Fallen

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Alison Bechdel photo

„I still found literary criticism to be a suspect activity“

—  Alison Bechdel American cartoonist, author 1960

Source: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

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„A literary critic of experience never defines anything.“

—  Northrop Frye Canadian literary critic and literary theorist 1912 - 1991

Source: "Quotes", p. 4

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