Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Hélène Cixous

French Feminist Writer, Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Literary Critic, Rhetorician and Professor

"Thought has always worked by opposition... By dual, hierarchized oppositions... Wherever an ordering intervenes, a law organizes the thinkable by (dual, irreconcilable; or mitigable, dialectical) oppositions. And all the couples of oppositions are couples."

"The time, the people, and the individual converge only once."

"Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard."

"Everything remains to be said on the subject of the Ghost and the ambiguity of the Return, for what renders it intolerable is not so much that it is an announcement of death nor even the proof that death exists, since this Ghost announces and proves nothing more than his return. What is intolerable is that the Ghost erases the limit which exists between two states, neither alive nor dead ; passing through, the dead man returns in the manner of the Repressed. It is his coming back which makes the ghost what he is, just as it is the return of the Repressed that inscribes the repression. In the end, death is never anything more than the disturbance of the limits. The impossible is to die."

"It takes a great deal of effort to make truth in writing so that the truth as one dreams it may have the best chance of being - not approached, not glimpsed - but better dreamed."

"What we hope for at the School of Dreams is the strength both to deal and to receive the axe's blow, to look straight at the face of God, which is none other than my own face, but seen naked, the face of my soul. The face of "God" is the unveiling, the staggering vision fo the construction we are, the tiny and great lies, the small nontruths we must have incessantly woven to be able to prepare our brothers' dinner and cook for our children. An unveiling that only happens by surprise, by accident, and with a brutality that shatters: under the blow of truth, the eggshell we are breaks. Right in the middle of life's path: the apocalypse; we lose a life."

"Writing is the delicate, difficult, and dangerous means of succeeding in avowing the unavowable."

"Meditation needs no results. Meditation can have itself as an end, I meditate without words and on nothingness. What tangles my life is writing."

"A heartbreaking paradox: if only I can finish my work so that it will live. Yet if it is finished, completed, a part of me but departed from me, I lost it alive, living but separate; and if it does not leave me, it is incomplete, insufficient, and half-dead that I keep it."

"Above all, one could hold onto everything: the suffering to the quick and its whims, the sticky shadows, somber viscosity of the veil drawn taut around cities, everything could be borne, since legal outings of a few hours might take place, I told myself. Of course, I thought, no point pretending one wasn't dead. But on the other hand, rather than yield to the maneuvers of the conservation instinct, strategies that make us flee the pain within by hiding from ourselves within ourselves from whom we flee, its poppies, its hypnotic operations that the powerful currents of day-to-day life reinforce with a thousand vulgar, pressing duties which turn us from our hearts. Do everything, I thought, on the contrary, whatever you can to resist the ingenious temptations of compromises, cling to the suffering, stir up the dread, for the monsters are also the benevolent guardians of the survivor's presence within me"

"Admit! But how, why? ... Oh this word of admission, this avowel, this morsel of ver-(dict), this wormwood. it is (the porter or) the usher or the useless, vicious key which would make the famous great Tor of the law swing back on its hinges. If we knew how to turn the avowal would we go in? In where?"

"Albums in ruins to be respected. It is memory itself. A place I do not return to. If we leaf through, we do it absent-mindedly, going by the open photos that fade to let me pass. I was born so far from my beginnings. I follow the bed of the blood. My distant blood, my foreigner, what a way we have come..."

"All that because Promethea is a woman? All this uproar, this trembling, this resistance? --Yes. No. Y-Yes... Naynayno. Whynoyes. Yes, Promethea is a woman. Yes, but because is a woman, that is not important. But no it precisely it?s not being important that is so important."

"All the great theorists of destiny or of human history have reproduced the most commonplace logic of desire, the one that keeps the movement toward the other staged in a patriarchal production, under Man's law."

"Almost every day I can feel myself suffering mainly in the head, I can explain the pain to myself but knowing it comes from an inflammation of my imagination doesn't prevent it being reality itself. What's more I'd be crazy not to go crazy. We don't know what an illness is. On awful hurts we plaster little old words, as if we could think hell with a paper bandage."

"An old cardboard box: you think it but you don't say it. Leftovers, that are swept up and glued together. I am your alipte, I say, I am your personal trainer and masseuse. I oil you. But there's no ointment against the bad thoughts and phantasms."

"And I was afraid. She frightens me because she can knock me down with a word. Because she does not know that writing is walking on a dizzying silence setting one word after the other on emptiness. Writing is miraculous and terrifying like the flight of a bird who has no wings but flings itself out and only gets wings by flying."

"All biographies like all autobiographies like all narratives tell one story in place of another story."

"All I need is to open one of my beloved great books to find a print of the cloven hoof. He is there, black in the blackness or black on black. The hidden figure, incarnation of literature, his delict and delectable. What am I doing here? I am evoking the devil. I follow him everywhere, the indissociable dissociator."

"All I know: I could only encounter you, my oasis, coming out of a desert. Deserted myself. This is all right. My futureless and solitary self. When suddenly I hear the voice of the springs--Right away you made me want to sing. To cry. Then to drink. But after the desert, the merest trickle of water sounds like a storm. And ever since, Promethea's every murmur shakes my life like an earthquake. I was asleep. I was not thirsty. It would have been possible for me not to hear the first three tears. Ever since I never sleep. I listen."

"And why don't you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven't written. (And why I didn't write before the age of twenty-seven.) Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it's reserved for the great-that is for great men; and it's silly. Besides, you've written a little, but in secret. And it wasn't good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn't go all the way, or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension a bit, just enough to take the edge off. And then as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty-so as to be forgiven; or to forget, to bury it until the next time."

"Are you sure you put your sex on properly this morning?"

"At the end of a more or less conscious computation, she finds not her sum but her differences. I am for you what you want me to be at the moment you look at me in a way you?ve never seen me before: at every instant. When I write, it?s everything we don?t know we can be that is written out of me, without exclusions, without stipulation, and everything we will be calls us to the unflagging, intoxicating, unappeasable search for love. In one another we will never be lacking."

"Because Jonah?s real story is the one never told: never was he as stupendously happy as during those three days and three nights of eternity. He was granted an experience that women dream of: he lived when he was mature in the adored whale?s belly. In real paradise. How does one get there? By disobedience. By passion. Running away."

"But I am just a woman who thinks her duty is not to forget. And this duty, which I believe I must fulfill, is: as a woman living now I must repeat again and again I am a woman, because we exist in an epoch still so ancient and ignorant and slow that there is still always the danger of genocide."

"But I may also be afraid. I am afraid. I have already read it. And, not to lie to you, I liked it. But I am afraid. I am not afraid of you, Fidelia, Sania, Ania. I am afraid of you. (I put all this in my separate notebook. My doubtbook.)"

"But is telling making?"

"Each time I have written or that I write a so-called "theoretical" text - in quotations because in reality my theoretical texts are also carried off by a poetic rhythm - it has been to respond to a moment of tension in cultural current events, where the ambient state of discourse - academic discourse, for example, or journalistic or political discourse - has pushed me to go back over things, to stop my journey and take the time to emphasize, to display in a didactic manner the thinking movement which for me was in-dissociable from my poetic movement, but which seemed to me to be entirely misunderstood, forgotten or repressed indeed by the topical scene."

"And I? I drink, I burn, I gather dreams. And sometimes I tell a story. Because Promethea asks me for a bowl of words before she goes to sleep."

"And so when you have lost everything, no more roads, no direction, no fixed signs, no ground, no thoughts able to resist other thoughts, when you are lost, beside yourself, and you continue getting lost, when you become the panicky movement of getting lost, then, that?s when, where you are unwoven weft, flesh that lets strangeness come through, defenseless being, without resistance, without batten, without skin, inundated with otherness, it?s in these breathless times that writings traverse you, songs of an unheard-of purity flow through you, addressed to no one, they well up, surge forth, from the throats of your unknown inhabitants, these are the cries that death and life hurl in their combat."

"Everyone knows that a place exists which is not economically or politically indebted to all the vileness and compromise. That is not obliged to reproduce the system. That is writing. If there is a somewhere else that can escape the infernal repetition, it lies in that direction, where it writes itself, where it dreams, where it invents new worlds."

"Everything she wanted to tell her, was unable to tell her, because she was afraid of hearing her own voice come out of her heart and be covered with blood, and then she poured all the blood into these syllables, and she offered it to her to drink like this : You have it."

"For a week she has been tormented, she burns to write something, gentle warmth emanates from her whole body, but still nothing comes of it. Besides, at the same time she is also busy burning old books, manuals, professional papers, theoretical volumes--because they keep her from doing the one thing that now seems urgent and right to her: shouting her loud hymn of ecstatic pleasure, breaching the tide of the old tongue's hard blare."

"Have the "self" and "liberty" changed? I asked myself."

"I am alive, thus I am contracted with terror at the idea that one of those close to me could be killed, could suffer. But I cannot say that it is what one calls fear. All the rest, for me, is anger; I am angry at the spirit of betrayal that dominates individuals and society."

"I am being killed by what keeps me from dying."

"I am sick of death and worst of all this sickness feeds on itself, the more afraid I am the more I am afraid the more I flee the more I am afraid the more I am haunted."

"I did not even know this existed...this world, I did not know. I thought it existed only in one's head, and in dreams... And now: here I am."

"I do believe in poetry. I believe that there are creatures endowed with the power to put things together and bring them back to life."

"I give myself a poet's right, otherwise I would not dare to speak."

"I will talk about truth again, without which (without the word truth, without the mystery truth) there would be no writing. It is what writing wants. But it (the truth) is totally down below and a long way off. And all the people I love and whom I have mentioned are beings who are bent on directing their writing toward this truth-over-there, with unbelievable labor; they are fighting against the elements and principally against the innumerable immediate exterior and interior enemies."

"I would say that I am so afraid of being afraid that I am not afraid. Now clearly, if I wanted to stay in the domain of austerity and humility, I would say that, like all human beings, I fear seeing the people I love die."

"I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst-burst with forms much more beautiful than those which are put up in frames and sold for a fortune. And I, too, said nothing, showed nothing; I didn't open my mouth, I didn't repaint my half of the world. I was ashamed. I was afraid, and I swallowed my shame and my fear. I said to myself: You are mad! What's the meaning of these waves, these floods, these outbursts? Where is the ebullient infinite woman who...hasn't been ashamed of her strength? Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of her drives (for she was made to believe that a well-adjusted normal woman has a ...divine composure), hasn't accused herself of being a monster? Who, feeling a funny desire stirring inside her (to sing, to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new), hasn't thought that she was sick? Well, her shameful sickness is that she resists death, that she makes trouble."

"If ever again we happened to lose our balance, just when sleepwalking through the same dream on the brink of hell?s valley, if ever the magical mare (whom I ride through the night air hollowed out into caverns and caves where wild animals live) in a crazy fit of anger over some word I might have said without the perfect sweetness that works on her like a charm, if ever the magic Mare looks over her shoulder and whinnies: So! You don?t love me! and bucks me off, sends me flying to the hyenas, if ever the paper ladder that I climb so easily to go pick stars for Promethea?at the very instant that I reach out my hand and it smells like fresh new moon, so good, it makes you believe in god?s genius?if ever at that very instant my ladder catches fire?because it is so fragile, all it would take is someone?s brushing against it tactlessly and all that would be left is ashes?if ever I had the dreadful luck again to find myself falling screaming down into the cruel guts of separation, and emptying all my being of hope, down to the last milligram of hope, until I am able to melt into the pure blackness of the abyss and be no more than night and a death rattle, I would really rather not be tumbling around without my pencil and paper."

"If my desire is possible, it means the system is already letting something else through."

"In other words, there is more than one way to get past a wall and more than one wall to get past. The wall of sexual difference, because it seems to impermeable, is one to which H.C. keeps returning. What fascinates her is precisely the imagined possibility of getting past that wall."

"In the beginning I adored. What I adored was human. Not persons; not totalitie, not defined and named beings. But signs. Flashes of being that glanced off me, kindling me. Lightening-like bursts that came to me. Look! I blazed up and the sign withdrew. Vanished. While I burned on and consumed myself wholly."

"In the synagogue of my heart... I myself jail and the jailed, I go wounded, bite-marked."

"It is because of this sea between us. The earth has never, up to now, separated us. But, ever since yesterday, there has been something in this nonetheless real, perfectly Atlantic, salty, slightly rough sea that has cast a spell on me. And every time I think about Promethea, I see her crossing this great expanse by boat and soon, alas, a storm comes up, my memory clouds over, in a flash there are shipwrecks, I cannot even cry out, my mouth is full of saltwater sobs. I am flooded with vague, deceptive recollections, I am drowning in my imagination in tears borrowed from the most familiar tragedies, I wish I had never read certain books whose poison is working in me. Has this Friday, perhaps, thrown a spell on me? But spells only work if you catch them. I have caught the Tragic illness. If only Promethea would make me some tea I know I would find some relief. But that is exactly what is impossible. And so, today, I am sinning. I am sinking beneath reality. I am weighted down with literature. That is my fate. Yet I had the presence of mind to start this parenthesis, the only healthy moment in these damp, feverish hours. All this to try to come back to the surface of our book... Phone me quickly, Promethea, get me out of this parenthesis fast!)"

"It is essential to exchange the invisible ring for all that we call survival, survive, survivor."