French Novelist, Critic and Essayist
"Habit is a second nature which prevents us from knowing the first, of which it has neither the cruelties nor the enchantments."
"Egoists always have the last word. Once and for all they establish the fact that their minds cannot be changed...We love only what we do not completely possess."
"The character we exhibit in the later half of our life need not necessarily be, though it often is, our original character, developed further, dried up, exaggerated, or diminished: it can be its exact opposite, like a suit worn inside out."
"In theory one is aware that the earth revolves, but in practice one does not perceive it, the ground upon which one treads seems not to move, and one can live undisturbed. So it is with Time in one's life."
"It is the tragedy of other people that they are to us merely showcases for the very perishable collections of our own mind."
"That which we have not been forced to decipher, to clarify by our own personal effort, that which was made clear before, is not ours."
"We are ordinarily so indifferent to people that when we have invested one of them with the possibility of giving us joy, or suffering, it seems as if he must belong to some other universe, he is imbued with poetry."
"There can be no peace of mind in love, since the advantage one has secured is never anything but a fresh starting-point for further desires."
"We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you, have not been shaped by a paterfamilias or a schoolmaster, they have sprung from very different beginnings, having been influenced by evil or commonplace that prevailed round them. They represent a struggle and a victory."
"We feel in one world, we think and name in another. Between the two we can set up a system of references, but we cannot fill the gap."
"What recalls another to us most vividly is precisely that which we had forgotten because it was unimportant: it has remained as it was, unaltered by our thought."
"Everything we think of as great has come to us from neurotics. It is they and they alone who found religious and create great works of art. The world will never realize how much it owes to them and what they have suffered in order to bestow their gifts on it."
"There is nothing like desire for preventing the things one says from bearing any resemblance to what one has in one's mind."
"For each illness that doctors cure with medicine, they provoke ten in healthy people by innoculating them with the virus that is a thousad times more powerful than any microbe: the idea that one is ill."
"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
"Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists, worlds more different one from the other than those which revolve in infinite space, worlds which, centuries after the extinction of the fire from which their light first emanated, whether it is called Rembrandt or Vermeer, send us still each one its special radiance."
"There is no one, no matter how wise he is, who has not in his youth said things or done things that are so unpleasant to recall in later life that he would expunge them entirely from his memory if that were possible. "
"No doubt very few people understand the purely subjective nature of the phenomenon that we call love, or how it creates, so to speak, a supplementary person, distinct from the person whom the world knows by the same name, a person most of whose constituent elements are derived from ourselves."
"Hard people are weak people whom nobody wants, and the strong, caring little whether they are wanted or not, have alone that meekness which the common herd mistake for weakness."
"The bonds that unite us to another human being are sanctified when he or she adopts the same point of view as ourselves in judging one of our imperfections."
"Our desires cut across one another, and in this confused existence it is rare for happiness to coincide with the desire that clamoured for it."
"Even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is created by the thoughts of other people."
"Forgetting that beauty and happiness are only ever incarnated in an individual person, we replace them in our minds by a conventional pattern, a sort of average of all the different faces we have ever admired, all the different pleasures we have ever enjoyed, and thus carry about with us abstract images, which are lifeless and uninspiring because they lack the very quality that something new, something different from what is familiar, always possesses, and which is the quality inseparable from real beauty and happiness. So we make our pessimistic pronouncements on life, which we think are valid, in the belief that we have taken account of beauty and happiness, whereas we have actually omitted them from consideration, substituting for them synthetic compounds that contain nothing of them."
"Perhaps it is not-being that is the true state, and all our dream of life is inexistent; but, if so, we feel that these phrases of music, these conceptions which exist in relation to our dream, must be nothing either. We shall perish, but we have as hostages these divine captives who will follow and share our fate. And death in their company is somehow less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps even less probable. "
"And it is because they contain thus within themselves the hours of the past that human bodies have the power to hurt so terribly those who love them, because they contain the memories of so many joys and desires already effaced for them, but still cruel for the lover who contemplates and prolongs in the dimension of Time the beloved body of which he is jealous, so jealous that he may even wish for its destruction. For after death Time withdraws from the body, and the memories, so indifferent, grown so pale, are effaced in her who no longer exists, as they soon will be in the lover whom for a while they continue to torment but in whom before long they will perish, once the desire that owed their inspiration to a living body is no longer there to sustain them."
"The soldier is convinced that a certain indefinitely extendable time period is accorded him before he is killed, the burglar before he is caught, men in general, before they must die. That is the amulet which preserves individuals — and sometimes populations — not from danger, but from the fear of danger, in reality from the belief in danger, which in some cases allows them to brave it without being brave. Such a confidence, just as unfounded, supports the lover who counts on a reconciliation, a letter."
"Even from the simplest, the most realistic point of view, the countries which we long for occupy, at any given moment, a far larger place in our actual life than the country in which we happen to be."
"Pleasures are like photographs: in the presence of the person we love, we take only negatives, which we develop later, at home, when we have at our disposal once more our inner dark room, the door of which it is strictly forbidden to open while others are present."