Civilization is maintained by a very few people in a small number of places and we need only some bombs and a few prisons to blot it out altogether.
Youth is a period of missed opportunities.
Promise is the capacity for letting people down.
The reward of art is not fame or success but intoxication: that is why so many bad artists are unable to give it up.
I review novels to make money, because it is easier for a sluggard to write an article a fortnight than a book a year, because the writer is soothed by the opiate of action, the crank by posing as a good journalist, and having an air hole. I dislike it. I do it and I am always resolving to give it up.
Topics: Criticism, Critics
No one over thirty-five is worth meeting who has not something to teach us,—something more than we could learn for ourselves, from a book.
When young we are faithful to individuals, when older we grow loyal to situations and to types.
In America every woman has her set of girl-friends; some are cousins, the rest are gained at school. These form a permanent committee who sit on each other’s affairs, who “come out” together, marry and divorce together, and who end as those groups of bustling, heartless well-informed club-women who govern society. Against them the Couple of Ehepaar is helpless and Man in their eyes but a biological interlude.
Topics: Friends and Friendship, Government, Women
If our elaborate and dominating bodies are given us to be denied at every turn, if our nature is always wrong and wicked, how ineffectual we are – like fishes not meant to swim.
Topics: The Body
When writers meet they are truculent, indifferent, or over-polite. Then comes the inevitable moment. A shows B that he has read something of B s. Will B show A? If not, then A hates B, if yes, then all is well. The only other way for writers to meet is to share a quick pee over a common lamp-post.
Topics: Writers, Authors & Writing
There is no pain equal to that which two lovers can inflict on one another. This should be made clear to all who contemplate such a union. The avoidance of this pain is the beginning of wisdom, for it is strong enough to contaminate the rest of our lives.
Topics: Love, Lovers
Civilization is an active deposit which is formed by the combustion of the present with the past. Neither in countries without a Present nor in those without a Past is it to be encountered. Proust in Venice, Matisse’s birdcages overlooking the flower market at Nice, Gide on the seventeenth-century quais of Toulon, Lorca in Granada, Picasso by Saint-Germain-des-Pres: there lies civilization and for me it can exist only under those liberal regimes in which the Present is alive and therefore capable of assimilating the Past.
I shall christen this style the Mandarin, since it is beloved by literary pundits. It is the style of all the writers whose tendency is to make their language convey more than they mean to and more than they feel. It is the style of most artists and all humbug.
Topics: Authors & Writing
The true work of art is the one which the seventh wave of genius throws up the beach where the undertow of time cannot drag it back.
The secret of happiness … is to be in harmony with existence, to be always calm, always lucid, always willing “to be joined to the universe without being more conscious of it than an idiot,” to let each wave of life wash us a little farther up the shore.
Topics: Happiness, Acceptance
Words today are like the shells and rope of seaweed which a child brings home glistening from the beach and which in an hour have lost their luster.
Green leaves on a dead tree is our epitaph—green leaves, dear reader, on a dead tree.
We love but once, for once only are we perfectly equipped for loving.
When I contemplate the accumulation of guilt and remorse which, like a garbage-can, I carry through life, and which is fed not only by the lightest action but by the most harmless pleasure, I feel Man to be of all living things the most biologically incompetent and ill-organized. Why has he acquired a seventy years life-span only to poison it incurably by the mere being of himself? Why has he thrown Conscience, like a dead rat, to putrefy in the well?
A mistake which is commonly made about neurotics is to suppose that they are interesting. It is not interesting to be always unhappy, engrossing with oneself, malignant and ungrateful, and never quite in touch with reality.
Wondering Whom to Read Next?
- L. P. Hartley British Writer, Critic
- J. R. R. Tolkien British Philologist, Writer
- Pico Iyer British-born Essayist, Novelist of Indian Origin
- John Michell English Esotericist, New Age Writer
- Maurice Baring British Author
- Philip Pullman English Children’s Author, Dramatist
- Kingsley Amis English Novelist, Poet
- Ian McEwan (b.1948) British Novelist, Short-story Writer
- Hanif Kureishi British Novelist, Screenwriter
- Ford Madox Ford English Novelist, Poet, Critic