Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Marcel Proust, fully Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust

French Novelist, Critic and Essayist

"Happiness is salutary for the body, but it is sorrow that develops spiritual strength."

"Habit is a second nature which prevents us from knowing the first, of which it has neither the cruelties nor the enchantments."

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

"But for the disconcerting actions of our fellow men, we rarely discover the motive."

"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."

"All the mind's activity is easy if it is not subjected to reality."

"There are visual errors in time as well as in space."

"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."

"Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind."

"It is the tragedy of other people that they are to us merely showcases for the very perishable collections of our own mind."

"Love is space and time made directly perceptible to the heart."

"Our passions shape our books, repose writes them in the intervals."

"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."

"The loss of a sense adds as much beauty to the world as its acquisition."

"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."

"Things don't change, but by and by our wishes change."

"When we have understood, we hear in retrospect."

"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."

"The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

"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."

"We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full."

"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."

"Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were."

"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."

"Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have of them. "

"It is often hard to bear the tears that we ourselves have caused."

"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."

"My destination is no longer a place, rather a new way of seeing."

"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."

"Love is space and time measured by the heart."

"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."

"We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full."

"Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible. "

"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."

"Love... ever unsatisfied, lives always in the moment that is about to come."

"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."

"But when one believes in the reality of things, making them visible by artificial means is not quite the same as feeling that they are close at hand."