Georges Bernanos


French Novelist, Political Writer and Soldier

Author Quotes

A man given to vice is always an idealist.

God ordains that beggars should beg for greatness, as for all else, when greatness shines out of them, they don't know it.

It is one of the most mysterious penalties of men that they should be forced to confide the most precious of their possessions to things so unstable and ever changing, alas, as words.

Purity is not imposed upon us as though it were a kind of punishment, it is one of those mysterious but obvious conditions of that supernatural knowledge of ourselves in the Divine, which we speak of as faith. Impurity does not destroy this knowledge, it slays our need for it.

There is nothing that God hates so much as a liar.

All her life she [Chantal] had been carefully, heroically watching over mediocre beings who were hardly real, over things of no value.

God! how is it that we fail to recognize that the mask of pleasure, stripped of all hypocrisy, is that of anguish?

It is the perpetual dread of fear, the fear of fear, that shapes the face of a brave man.

Rather than the obsession with impurity, you'd do better to fear the nostalgia for purity.

There remains the unforseen. And the unforseen is never negligible.

An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.

Hatred of the priest is one of man's profoundest instincts, as well as one of the least known. That it is as old as the race itself no one doubts, yet our age has raised it to an almost prodigious degree of refinement and excellence. With the decline or disappearance of other powers, the priest, even though appearing so intimately integrated into the life of society, has become a more singular and unclassifiable being than any of those old magicians the ancient world used to keep locked up like sacred animals in the depths of its temples, existing in the intimacy of the gods alone. Priests moreover are all the more singular and unclassifiable in that they do not recognize themselves as such and are nearly always dupes of the most gross outward appearances — whether of the irony of some or the servile deference of others. But that contradiction, by nature more political than religious and used far too long to nurture clerical pride, does, through the growing feeling of their loneliness and to the extent that it is gradually transformed into hostile indifference, throw them unarmed into the heart of social conflicts they naively pride themselves on being able to resolve by using texts. But, then, what does it matter? The hour is coming when, on the ruins of the old Christian order, a new order will be born that will indeed be an order of the world, the order of the Prince of this World, of that prince whose kingdom is of this world. And the hard law of necessity, stronger than any illusions, will then remove the very object for clerical pride so long maintained simply by conventions outlasting any belief. And the footsteps of beggars shall cause the earth to tremble once again.

I've never been young, because nobody wanted to be with me.

Sadness came into the world with Satan — that world our Savior never prayed for, the world you say I do not know. Oh, it is not so difficult to recognize: it is the world that prefers cold to warmth! What can God find to say to those who, of their own free will, of their own weight incline towards sadness and turn instinctively towards the night?

There's no hatred that can ever be satisfied either in this world or the next, and the hatred that one has for oneself is probably the one for which there is no forgiveness.

And now she was thinking of her own death, with her heart gripped not by fear but by the excitement of a great discovery, the feeling that she was about to learn what she had been unable to learn from her brief experience of love. What she thought about death was childish, but what could never have touched her in the past now filled her with poignant tenderness, as sometimes a familiar face we see suddenly with the eyes of love makes us aware that it has been dearer to us than life itself for longer than we have ever realized.

Have you never been moved by poor men's fidelity, the image of you they form in their simple minds? Why should you always talk of their envy, without understanding that what they ask of you is not so much your worldly goods, as something very hard to define, which they themselves can put no name to; yet at times it consoles their loneliness; a dream of splendor, of magnificence, a tawdry dream, a poor man's dream -- and yet God blesses it!

Justice in the hands of the powerful is merely a governing system like any other. Why call it justice? Let us rather call it injustice, but of a sly effective order, based entirely on cruel knowledge of the resistance of the weak, their capacity for pain, humiliation and misery. Injustice sustained at the exact degree of necessary tension to turn the cogs of the huge machine-for-the-making-of-rich-men, without bursting the boiler.

Satan is too hard a master. He would never command as did the Other with divine simplicity: 'Do likewise.' The devil will have no victims resemble him. He permits only a rough caricature, impotent, abject, which has to serve as food for eternal irony, the mordant irony of the depths. -- Diary of a Country Priest

They are always talking about the fire of hell, but no one has ever seen it, my friends. For hell is cold. It used to be that the nights weren't long enough to wear out your malice, and you got up each morning with your breasts still full of poison. But now the devil himself has withdrawn from you. Ah, how alone we are in evil, my brothers! The poor human race dreams from century to century of breaking that solitude — but it's no use! The devil, who can do so many things, will never succeed in founding a Church, a Church that will put in common both the merits of hell and the sin of all. From now until the end of the world, the sinner will have to sin alone, always alone — for just as we die alone, so also do we sin alone. The devil, you see, is the friend who never stays with us to the end.

And what have you laymen made of hell? A kind of penal servitude for eternity, on the lines of your convict prisons on earth, to which you condemn in advance all the wretched felons your police have hunted from the beginning -- ''enemies of society,'' as you call them. You're kind enough to include the blasphemers and the profane. What proud or reasonable man could stomach such a notion of God's justice? And when you find that notion inconvenient it's easy enough for you to put it on one side. Hell is not to love any more, Mme. Not to love anymore!

Haven't we mothers all given our sons a taste for lies, lies which from the cradle upwards lull them, reassure them, send them to sleep: lies as soft and warm as a breast!

Like all truly pure souls she [Chantal] quickly resigned herself to past faults, thought only of how to repair whatever harm they had done. Of all my daughters, you are certainly the least bothered by scruples of conscience, Abbé Chevance used to say... Even sin, once the will is detached and no longer nourishes it, withers and dies sterile. It is in the secret of intentions, like in a decomposing humus, in the dark forest of future sins, unpardoned sins, half dead, half living, that new poisons are distilled.

She [Chantal] did not understand him [Fiodor]. She never could and never would understand him, being as invulnerable in her truthfulness as he in his falseness. And yet, she hated him unconsciously with a jealous hatred — for what other name, alas, could be given to that revolt of her pure conscience, so well-armed and, at the same time, so defenseless? She hated him instinctively as though he already possessed the incomparable secret with which to menace her, to menace God Himself.

To you a pious young girl who goes to mass and communion, seems pretty silly and childish; you take us for innocents... Well, let me tell you, sometimes we know more about evil than people who have only learned to offend God.

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French Novelist, Political Writer and Soldier