— Henri Barbusse
Context: If, from the idea of motherland, you take away covetousness, hatred, envy and vainglory; if you take away from it the desire for predominance by violence, what is there left of it?
It is not an individual unity of laws; for just laws have no colors. It is not a solidarity of interests, for there are no material national interests — or they are not honest. It is not a unity of race; for the map of the countries is not the map of the races. What is there left?
There is left a restricted communion, deep and delightful; the affectionate and affecting attraction in the charm of a language — there is hardly more in the universe besides its languages which are foreigners — there is left a personal and delicate preference for certain forms of landscape, of monuments, of talent. And even this radiance has its limits. The cult of the masterpieces of art and thought is the only impulse of the soul which, by general consent, has always soared above patriotic littlenesses.