The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied … but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.
When we suffer anguish we return to early childhood because that is the period in which we first learnt to suffer the experience of total loss. It was more than that. It was the period in which we suffered more total losses than in all the rest of our life put together.
Topics: Grief, Grieving
In the modern world, in which thousands of people are dying every hour as a consequence of politics, no writing anywhere can begin to be credible unless it is informed by political awareness and principles.
The strange power of art is sometimes it can show that what people have in common is more urgent than what differentiates them. It seems to me it’s something that theatre can do, but it’s rare; it’s very rare.
Hope is not a form of guarantee; it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.
The envied are like bureaucrats; the more impersonal they are, the greater the illusion (for themselves and for others) of their power.
Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does.
Animals are born, are sentient and are mortal. In these things they resemble man. In their superficial anatomy — less in their deep anatomy — in their habits, in their time, in their physical capacities, they differ from man. They are both like and unlike.
To be desired is perhaps the closest anybody in this life can reach to feeling immortal.
If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen. For me, a storyteller is like a passeur who gets contraband across a frontier.
The zoo to which people go to meet animals, to observe them, to see them, is, in fact, a monument to the impossibility of such encounters. Modern zoos are an epitaph to a relationship which was as old as man.
A man’s death makes everything certain about him. Of course, secrets may die with him. And of course, a hundred years later somebody looking through some papers may discover a fact which throws a totally different light on his life and of which all the people who attended his funeral were ignorant. Death changes the facts qualitatively but not quantitatively. One does not know more facts about a man because he is dead. But what one already knows hardens and becomes definite. We cannot hope for ambiguities to be clarified, we cannot hope for further change, we cannot hope for more. We are now the protagonists and we have to make up our minds.
Topics: Dying, Death
Post-modernism has cut off the present from all futures. The daily media add to this by cutting off the past. Which means that critical opinion is often orphaned in the present.
Topics: Criticism, Critics
Advertising is not merely an assembly of competing messages; it is a language itself which is always being used to make the same general proposal
One of the fundamental reasons why so many doctors become cynical and disillusioned is precisely because, when the abstract idealism has worn thin, they are uncertain about the value of the actual lives of the patients they are treating. This is not because they are callous or personally inhuman: it is because they live in and accept a society which is incapable of knowing what a human life is worth.
The human imagination… has great difficulty in living strictly within the confines of a materialist practice or philosophy. It dreams, like a dog in its basket, of hares in the open.
Topics: Imagination, Difficulty
The media network has its idols, but its principal idol is its own style which generates an aura of winning and leaves the rest in darkness. It recognizes neither pity nor pitilessness.
When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.
Topics: Books, Reading
Sometimes, because of its immediacy, television produces a kind of electronic parable. Berlin, for instance, on the day the Wall was opened. Rostropovich was playing his cello by the Wall that no longer cast a shadow, and a million East Berliners were thronging to the West to shop with an allowance given them by West German banks! At that moment the whole world saw how materialism had lost its awesome historic power and become a shopping list.
One can say of language that it is potentially the only human home, the only dwelling place that cannot be hostile to man.
Nothing in the nature around us is evil. This needs to be repeated since one of the human ways of talking oneself into inhuman acts is to cite the supposed cruelty of nature.
Glamour cannot exist without personal social envy being a common and widespread emotion.
Compassion has no place in the natural order of the world which operates on the basis of necessity. Compassion opposes this order and is therefore best thought of as being in some way supernatural.
Topics: Kindness, Compassion
The camera relieves us of the burden of memory. It surveys us like God, and it surveys for us. Yet no other god has been so cynical, for the camera records in order to forget.
Topics: Memory, Photography
Wondering Whom to Read Next?
- Ford Madox Ford English Novelist, Poet, Critic
- Raymond Chandler American Novelist
- Stephen Fry English Actor, Writer
- John Fowles English Novelist
- Peter Ustinov British Actor, Playwright
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti British Poet, Artist
- Bryan Forbes English Actor, Film Director
- Robert Ranke Graves British Writer
- Nick Hornby English Author
- Anthony Burgess English Novelist, Critic