God, sex, Kafka and roof racks - all made clear by traditional Albanian wisdom

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The Independent Online
AS REGULAR readers will know, I have always had a weakness for Albanian proverbs, which have a paradoxical nature typical of a country which managed to be an atheist state for so many years despite the majority of the population being Muslim. Our British proverbs tend to be sensible- sounding without having much to teach us. Albanian proverbs are quite the opposite: opaque at first sight, but nutritious after much chewing.

Anyway, judge for yourself in this latest cropping from the Great Book of Albanian Proverbs

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No great comedy hit ever had a comic title.

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Prayer-time: the only time when a Christian comes out in the open and tells God what to do.

In the country of the blind, the optician starves.

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A tennis ball is used for many different activities, but a cricket ball is used only for cricket.

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Never stand between a dog and a tree.

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Show me a king or queen who can hum their national anthem backwards, and I'll show you a man or woman who is too smart to be a monarch.

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A boomerang that returns is a reproach to its owner, for it is a boomerang that has missed its target.

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There are many more people who use the word "Kafkaesque" than ever read Kafka.

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Three things that are a waste of money: theatre programmes, wine in a pub and a National Lottery ticket.

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A roof rack is mildly useful for carrying luggage, but it is extremely useful for identifying your car in a large car park.

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The person most dependent on road transport is a hitch-hiker, yet he is the one person who is never mentioned in traffic surveys.

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Which came first: the pencil or the pencil sharpener ?

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The most successful and yet most unobtrusive lobby group of all time is the movement dedicated to keeping angling out of the Olympic Games.

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What question would you pay Martin Bell to ask in Parliament?

Whatever the commonest tree is in your country, it is not as common as ivy.

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When a hostage is released, nobody ever asks the captor to write a book about the experience.

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There is nothing more talked about by men than sex, or less practised.

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Who ever heard of a man being trained to lead a blind dog around ?

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Soft, pliable, easily moulded - all the definitions for "plastic" given in the dictionary, and all the things that plastic is not.

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Cuba must be an awful place. Nobody has hijacked a plane to go there for years.

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Yes, but should anyone WANT to grasp a nettle ?

Language always lags behind technology. We still say "full steam ahead", and we still call it a "telegraph" pole.

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In four hundred years the Italians have turned the tomato into the basis for the best cooking in the world. In the same period the Americans have turned it into ketchup.

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All these quotations taken from the Great Book of Albanian Proverbs, 1998 edition.

Correction

Yesterday I wrote that "The Seekers' films represent one of the peaks of twentieth-century art." This should have been, of course, "De Sica's films represent one of the peaks of twentieth-century art".

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