The written word has taught me to listen to the human voice, much as the great unchanging statues have taught me to appreciate bodily motions.
All happiness is a form of innocence.
Everything turns out to be valuable that one does for one’s self without thought of profit.
[On travel:] Who would be so besotted as to die without having made at least the round of this, his prison?
One nourishes one’s created characters with one’s own substance: it’s rather like the process of gestation. To give the character life, or to give him back life, it is of course necessary to fortify him by contributing something of one’s own humanity, but it doesn’t follow from that that the character is I, the writer, or that I am the character. The two entities remain distinct.
Life is atrocious, we know. But precisely because I expect little of the human condition, man’s periods of felicity, his partial progress, his efforts to begin over again and continue, all seem to me like so many prodigies which nearly compensate for the monstrous mass of ills and defeats, of indifference and error. Catastrophe and ruin will come; disorder will triumph, but order will too, from time to time.
The memory of most men is an abandoned cemetery where lie, unsung and unhonored, the dead whom they have ceased to cherish. Any lasting grief is reproof to their neglect.
Our true birthplace is that in which we cast for the first time an intelligent eye on ourselves. My first homelands were my books.
the press is too often a distorting mirror, which deforms the people and events it represents, making them seem bigger or smaller than they really are.
Want of passion is, I think, a very striking characteristic of Americans, not unrelated to their predilection for violence. For very few people truly have a passionate desire to achieve, and violence serves as a kind of substitute.
The landscape of my days appears to be composed, like mountainous regions, of varied materials heaped up pell-mell. There I see my nature, itself composite, made up of equal parts of instinct and training. Here and there protrude the granite peaks of the inevitable, but all about is rubble from the landslips of chance.
Translating is writing.
Do not mistake me. I am not yet weak enough to yield to fearful imaginings, which are almost as absurd as illusions of hope, and are certainly harder to bear. If I must deceive myself, I should prefer to stay on the side of confidence, for I shall lose no more there and shall suffer less.
When two texts, or two assertions, perhaps two ideas, are in contradiction, be ready to reconcile them rather than cancel one by the other; regard them as two different facets, or two successive stages, of the same reality, a reality convincingly human just because it is too complex.
Everything is too far away in the past, or mysteriously too close.
There are books which one should not attempt before having passed the age of forty.
I think still that someone wiser than I might well have remained happy till his death.
A being afire with life cannot foresee death; in fact, by each of his deeds he denies that death exists.
Ancient and oriental civilizations were more sensitive than we are to the cycles of things; to the succession of generations, both divine and human; and to change within stasis. Western man is virtually alone in wanting to make his God into a fortress and personal immortality into a bulwark against time.
Love is a punishment. We are punished for not having been strong enough to remain alone.
Meditation upon death does not teach one how to die; it does not make the departure more easy, but ease is not what I seek. Beloved boy, so willful and brooding, your sacrifice will have enriched not my life but my death. … Centuries as yet unborn within the dark womb of time would pass by thousands over that tomb without restoring life to him, but likewise without adding to his death, and without changing the fact that he had been.
A touch of madness is, I think, almost always necessary for constructing a destiny.
A young musician plays scales in his room and only bores his family. A beginning writer, on the other hand, sometimes has the misfortune of getting into print.
Laws change more slowly than custom, and though dangerous when they fall behind the times are more dangerous still when they presume to anticipate custom.
One reads thousands of books, of poets, modern and ancient, as one meets thousands of people. What remains of it all is hard to tell.
To stay in one place and watch the seasons come and go is tanatmount to constant travel: One is traveling with the earth.
Everything that we do affects our fate for better or for worse. The circumstances into which we are born also exert a tremendous influence; we come into the world with debits and credits for which we are not responsible already posted to our account: this teaches us humility.
Every hour has its immediate duty, its special injunction which dominates all others.
All happiness is a work of art: the smallest error falsifies it, the slightest hesitation alters it, the least heaviness spoils it, the slightest stupidity brutalizes it.
age means nothing. If anything I feel that I’m still a child: eternity and childhood are my ages.
nothing is slower than the true birth of a man
The true birthplace is that wherein for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself; my first homelands have been books, and to a lesser degree schools.
Men who care passionately for women attach themselves at least as much to the temple and to the accessories of the cult as to their goddess herself.
Any truth creates a scandal.
A book may lie dormant for fifty years or for two thousand years in a forgotten corner of a library, only to reveal, upon being opened, the marvels or the abysses that it contains, or the line that seems to have been written for me alone. In this respect the writer is not different from any other human being: whatever we say or do can have far-reaching consequences.