Polish-born English Novelist
Joseph Conrad, born Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski
Polish-born English Novelist
Life knows us not and we do not know life—-we don’t know even our own thoughts. Half the words we use have no meaning whatever and of the other half each man understands each word after the fashion of his own folly and conceit. Faith is a myth and beliefs shift like mists on the shore; thoughts vanish; words, once pronounced, die; and the memory of yesterday is as shadowy as the hope of tomorrow.
A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line...To snatch in a moment of courage, from the remorseless rush of time, a passing phase of life is only the beginning of the task. The task approached in tenderness and faith is to hold up unquestioningly, without choice and without fear, the rescued fragment before all eyes and in the light of a sincere mood. It is to show its vibration, its colour, its form; and through its movement, its form, and its colour, reveal the substance of its truth -- disclose its inspiring secret: the stress and passion within the core of each convincing moment. In a single-minded attempt of that kind, if one be deserving and fortunate, one may perchance attain to such clearness of sincerity that at last the presented vision of regret or pity, of terror or mirth, shall awaken in the hearts of the beholders that feeling of unavoidable solidarity; of the solidarity in mysterious origin, in toil, in joy, in hope, in uncertain fate, which binds men to each other and all mankind to the visible world.
They trespassed upon my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretense, because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew. Their bearing, which was simply the bearing of commonplace individuals going about their business in the assurance of perfect safety, was offensive to me like the outrageous flauntings of folly in the face of a danger it is unable to comprehend. I had no particular desire to enlighten them, but I had some difficulty in restraining myself from laughing in their faces, so full of stupid importance.
It’s extraordinary how we go through life with eyes half shut, with dull ears, with dormant thoughts. Perhaps it’s just as well; and it may be that it is this very dullness that makes life to the incalculable majority so supportable and so welcome
Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.
Of all the inanimate objects, of all men's creations, books are the nearest to us for they contain our very thoughts, our ambitions, our indignations, our illusions, our fidelity to the truth, and our persistent leanings to error. But most of all they resemble us in their precious hold on life.
I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself. Your own reality--for yourself not for others--what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.
Only in men's imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life.
In order to move others deeply we must deliberately allow ourselves to be carried away beyond the bounds of our normal sensibility.
A man's most open actions have a secret side to them.
Only those who do nothing… make no mistakes.
No illumination can sweep all mystery out of the world. After the departed darkness the shadows remain.
I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more - the feeling that I could last forever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort - to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and expires - and expires, too soon, too soon - before life itself.
All ambitions are lawful except those that climb upward on the miseries or credulities of mankind.
An artist is a man of action, whether he creates a personality, invents an expedient, or finds the issue of a complicated situation.
I can't tell if a straw ever saved a drowning man, but I know that a mere glance is enough to make despair pause. For in truth we who are creatures of impulse are creatures of despair.
It is my belief no man ever understands quite his own artful dodges to escape from the grim shadow of self-knowledge.
The artist (in literature) appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom; to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition - and, therefore, more permanently enduring. He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain.
The mind of man is capable of anything - because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future.
There is never enough time to say our last word - the last word of our love, of our desire, faith, remorse, submission, revolt.
They believe their words. Everybody shows a respectful deference to certain sounds that he and his fellows can make. But about feelings people really know nothing. We talk with indignation or enthusiasm; we talk about oppression, cruelty, crime, devotion, self-sacrifice, virtue, and we know very little beyond the words.