‘The spiritual superiority of the vanquished’ – I came across that phrase in the Metzler Lexikon Weltliteratur entry on Stefan Zweig by Helmut Scheuer (in German: ‘die seelische Superiorität des Besiegten’) and think it’s brilliant.
The phrase is used in the context of Zweig’s rejection of violence, and it captures so well that often the vanquished are the true, that is to say, the moral and spiritual victors. Often it really is better to let the other ‘win’. That’s not always easy to do (now here’s an understatement for you), but it is well worth practising.
As this blog is entitled ‘Brief thoughts and quotes’, how could I not quote Anne Carson’s thoughts about quotes in ‘Foam (Essay with Rhapsody): On the Sublime in Longinus and Antonioni’ in Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera?
A quote (cognate with quota) is a cut, a section, a slice of someone else’s orange. You suck the slice, toss the rind, skate away. Part of what you enjoy in a documentary technique is the sense of banditry. To loot someone else’s life or sentences and make off with a point of view, which is called ‘objective’ because you can make anything into an object by treating it this way, is exciting and dangerous.