Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, fully Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko

Russian Poet, Novelist, Essayist, Dramatist, Screenwriter, Actor, Director and Editor

"A show of envy is an insult to oneself."

"Character begins to form at the first pinch of anxiety about ourselves."

"Be equal to your talent, not your age. At times let the gap between them be embarrassing."

"He who is conceived in a cage yearns for the cage."

"Time has a way of demonstrating the most stubborn are the most intelligent."

"But history is that rare woman who doesn't like to look at herself in the mirror. History, when she finds herself in front of one, wipes and wipes its surface at though in this way she might change her face to something better"

"But what if it doesn't work? ?and they jammed sticks in the wheels of the first locomotive to make sure it wouldn't work."

"A poet's autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote."

"And how I flattered myself from time to time with proving to myself nothing in you could be unknown to me. You don't belong to the mind's calculations, and you disproved each of my demonstrations, since to be unexpected is your truth."

"All values in this world are more or less questionable, but the most important thing in life is human kindness."

"Envy is an insult to oneself."

"Everything I do, I do on the principle of Russian borscht. You can throw everything into it beets, carrots, cabbage, onions, everything you want. What's important is the result, the taste of the borscht."

"Galileo, the clergy maintained, was a pernicious and stubborn man. But time has a way of demonstrating the most stubborn are the most intelligent. In Galileo's day, a fellow scientist was no more stupid than Galileo. He was well aware the earth revolved, but he also had a large family to feed. Stepping into a carriage with his wife, after effecting his betrayal, he believed he was launched on a career, though he was undermining it in reality. Galileo alone had risked asserting the truth about our planet, and this made him a great man... His was a genuine career as I understand it. I salute then a career, when the career is akin to that of a Shakespeare or Pasteur, a Newton or Tolstoy- Leo! Why did people fling mud at them all? Talent speaks for itself, whatever the charges. We've forgotten the men who abused them, Remember only the victims of slander. All who rushed into the stratosphere, the doctors who perished fighting cholera, were, all of them, men of career! I take their careers as my example! I believe in their sacred faith. Their faith is my very manhood. I shall therefore pursue my career by trying not to pursue one."

"Give me a mystery - just a plain and simple one - a mystery which is diffidence and silence, a slim little bare-foot mystery: give me a mystery - just one!"

"He watched through a crack inside just pretending to be dead he wanted to fix each pallbearer in his memory . . . it seems to me a telephone was installed in the coffin to someone yet again Stalin is sending his instructions."

"Here we have some people who call themselves Christians and they forget Jesus Christ was a Jew. Something like anti-Semitism is an artificial way of avoiding responsibility. You blame the problems in your country on someone else, on some group."

"How can the confessor teach those who are lost and sick at heart, when he himself, among the sinners, is worst, and most forsaken? It is only a game we play/ with other people's sins. Besides, everyone knows/ that everyone lies confessing."

"I do not like poems that resemble hay compressed into a geometrically perfect cube. I like it when the hay, unkempt, uncombed, with dry berries mixed in it, thrown together gaily and freely, bounces along atop some truck?and more, if there are some lovely and healthy lasses atop the hay?and better yet if the branches catch at the hay, and some of it tumbles to the road."

"I love sport because I love life, and sport is one of the basic joys of life."

"In any man who dies there dies with him, his first snow and kiss and fight. Not people die but worlds die in them."

"In general, in poetry and literature, I am among those people who believe that too much is indispensable."

"In my blood there is no Jewish blood. In their callous rage, all anti-Semites must hate me now as a Jew. For that reason I am a true Russian."

"In Russia all tyrants believe poets to be their worst enemies."

"Justice is like a train that is nearly always late."

"Literature has to serve as a moral control of politics,"

"My first book was bad. It concentrated more on form than content."

"My love will come will fling open her arms and fold me in them, will understand my fears, observe my changes. In from the pouring dark, from the pitch night without stopping to bang the taxi door she?ll run upstairs through the decaying porch burning with love and love?s happiness, she?ll run dripping upstairs, she won?t knock, will take my head in her hands, and when she drops her overcoat on a chair, it will slide to the floor in a blue heap."

"No one sleeps more beautifully than you. But i am afraid that you will waken just now, and touch me with an indifferent glance, lightly passing, and commit the murder of beauty."

"No people are uninteresting. Their fate is like the chronicle of planets. Nothing in them in not particular, and planet is dissimilar from planet. And if a man lived in obscurity making his friends in that obscurity obscurity is not uninteresting. To each his world is private and in that world one excellent minute. And in that world one tragic minute These are private. In any man who dies there dies with him his first snow and kiss and fight it goes with him. There are left books and bridges and painted canvas and machinery Whose fate is to survive. But what has gone is also not nothing: by the rule of the game something has gone. Not people die but worlds die in them. Whom we knew as faulty, the earth's creatures Of whom, essentially, what did we know? Brother of a brother? Friend of friends? Lover of lover? We who knew our fathers in everything, in nothing. They perish. They cannot be brought back. The secret worlds are not regenerated. And every time again and again I make my lament against destruction."

"No, Stalin did not die. He thinks that death can be fixed. We removed him from the mausoleum. But how do we remove Stalin from Stalin's heirs?"

"Only when the sense of the pain of others begins does man begin"

"Over Babiy Yar there are no memorials. The steep hillside like a rough inscription. I am frightened. Today I am as old as the Jewish race."

"Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers."

"So on and on we walked without thinking of rest passing craters, passing fire, under the rocking sky of '41 tottering crazy on its smoking columns."

"Something dangerous is beginning: I am coming late to my own self. I made an appointment with my thoughts- the thoughts were snatched from me. I made an appointment with Faulkner- but they made me go to a banquet. I made an appointment with history, but a grass-widow dragged me into bed. Worse than barbed wire are birthday parties, mine and others', and roasted suckling pigs hold me like a sprig of parsley between their teeth! Led away for good to a life absolutely not my own, everything that I eat, eats me, everything that I drink, drinks me. I made an appointment with myself, but they invite me to feast on my own spareribs. I am garlanded from all sides not by strings of bagels, but by the holes of bagels, and I look like an anthology of zeros. Life gets broken into hundreds of lifelets that exhaust and execute me. In order to get through to myself I had to smash my body against others', and my fragments, my smithereens, are trampled by the roaring crowd. I am trying to glue myself together, but my arms are still severed. I'd write with my left leg, but both the left and the right have run off, in different directions. I don't know- where is my body? And soul? Did it really fly off, without a murmured 'good-bye! '? How do I break through to a faraway namesake, waiting for me in the cold somewhere? I've forgotten under which clock I am waiting for myself. For those who don't know who they are, time does not exist. No one is under the clock. On the clock there is nothing. I am late for my appointment with me. There is no one. Nothing but cigarette butts. Only one flicker- A lonely, dying, spark..."

"Sorrow happens, hardship happens, the hell with it, who never knew the price of happiness, will not be happy."

"The hell with it. Who never knew the price of happiness will not be happy."

"There is no need to fear the strong. All one needs is to know the method of overcoming them. There is a special jujitsu for every strong man."

"Translation is like a woman... If it is beautiful, it is not faithful. If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful."

"True sport is always a duel, a duel with nature, with one's own fear, with one's own fatigue, a duel in which the body and the mind are strengthened."

"We stopped the war in Afghanistan. We abolished censorship. We abolished the special commissions that were checking on Russian citizens going abroad. I am very happy that in history my name will be connected to this period."

"When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie."

"While you're alive it's shameful to worm your way into the Calendar of Saints. Disbelief in yourself is more saintly. It takes real talent not to dread being terrified by your own agonizing lack of talent. Disbelief in yourself is indispensable. Indispensable to us is the loneliness of being gripped in the vise, so that in the darkest night the sky will enter you and skin your temples with the stars, so that streetcars will crash into the room, wheels cutting across your face, so the dangling rope, terrible and alive, will float into the room and dance invitingly in the air. Indispensable is any mangy ghost in tattered, overplayed stage rags, and if even the ghosts are capricious, I swear, they are no more capricious than those who are alive. Indispensable amidst babbling boredom are the deadly fear of uttering the right words and the fear of shaving, because across your cheekbone graveyard grass already grows. It is indispensable to be sleeplessly delirious, to fail, to leap into emptiness. Probably, only in despair is it possible to speak all the truth to this age. It is indispensable, after throwing out dirty drafts, to explode yourself and crawl before ridicule, to reassemble your shattered hands from fingers that rolled under the dresser. Indispensable is the cowardice to be cruel and the observation of the small mercies, when a step toward falsely high goals makes the trampled stars squeal out. It's indispensable, with a misfit's hunger, to gnaw a verb right down to the bone. Only one who is by nature from the naked poor is neither naked nor poor before fastidious eternity. And if from out of the dirt, you have become a prince, but without principles, unprince yourself and consider how much less dirt there was before, when you were in the real, pure dirt. Our self-esteem is such baseness... The Creator raises to the heights only those who, even with tiny movements, tremble with the fear of uncertainty. Better to cut open your veins with a can opener, to lie like a wino on a spit-spattered bench in the park, than to come to that very comfortable belief in your own special significance. Blessed is the madcap artist, who smashes his sculpture with relish- hungry and cold-but free from degrading belief in himself."

"Who never knew the price of happiness will not be happy."

"Why is it that right-wing bastards always stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, while liberals fall out among themselves?"

"The only true happiness is to share in the sufferings of the unhappy… It is much better to have the screaming sensitivity of the soul uncovered by any protective skin than to have tear-proof rhinoceros skin in combination with cold fish blood."