An aphorism is nothing else but the slightest
form of writing raised to the highest level of expressive communication. Carl William Brown





Only the more rugged mortals should attempt to keep up with current literature.


George Age


Literature is made upon any occasion that a challenge is put to the legal apparatus by conscience in touch with humanity.


Nelson Algren (1909-1981, American author)


The writer in western civilization has become not a voice of his tribe, but of his individuality. This is a very narrow-minded situation.


Aharon Appelfeld (1932-, Israeli novelist)


If the most significant characteristic of man is the complex of biological needs he shares with all members of his species, then the best lives for the writer to observe are those in which the role of natural necessity is clearest, namely, the lives of the very poor.


W. H. Auden (1907-1973, Anglo-American poet)


Literary imagination is an aesthetic object offered by a writer to a lover of books.


Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962, French scientist, philosopher, literary theorist)


In the present age, alas! our pens are ravished by unlettered authors and unmannered critics, that make a havoc rather than a building, a wilderness rather than a garden. But, a lack! what boots it to drop tears upon the preterit?


Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898, British illustrator, writer)


Literature is without proofs. By which it must be understood that it cannot prove, not only what it says, but even that it is worth the trouble of saying it.


Roland Barthes (1915-1980, French semiologist)


Do not worry about the incarnation of ideas. If you are a poet, your works will contain them without your knowledge -- they will be both moral and national if you follow your inspiration freely.


Vissarion Belinsky


The great standard of literature as to purity and exactness of style is the Bible.


Hugh Blair (British poet)


Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.


Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986, Argentinean author)


A losing trade, I assure you, sir: literature is a drug.


George Borrow (1803-1881, British author)


All that I have accomplished... has been by that plodding, patient, persevering process of accretion which builds the ant heap particle by particle, thought by thought, fact by fact.


Elihu Burritt


All literature is political.


LeVar Burton (American actor)


English literature is a kind of training in social ethics. English trains you to handle a body of information in a way that is conducive to action.


Marilyn Butler (American writer)


Those people work more wisely who seek to achieve good in their own small corner of the world... than those who are forever thinking that life is in vain, unless one can... do big things.


Herbert Butterfield


Literature transforms and intensifies ordinary language, deviates systematically from everyday speech. If you approach me at a bus stop and murmur "Thou still unravished bride of quietness," then I am instantly aware that I am in the presence of the literary.


Terry Eagleton (1943-, British critic)


The struggle of literature is in fact a struggle to escape from the confines of language; it stretches out from the utmost limits of what can be said; what stirs literature is the call and attraction of what is not in the dictionary.


Italo Calvino (1923-1985, Cuban writer, essayist, journalist)


When politicians and politically minded people pay too much attention to literature, it is a bad sign -- a bad sign mostly for literature. But it is also a bad sign when they don't want to hear the word mentioned.


Italo Calvino (1923-1985, Cuban writer, essayist, journalist)


All literature is gossip.


Truman Capote (1942-, American author)


There is a great discovery still to be made in literature, that of paying literary men by the quantity they do not write.


Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881, Scottish philosopher, author)


Progress is the sum of small victories won by individual human beings.


Bruce Catton (American author)


When a book, any sort of book, reaches a certain intensity of artistic performance it becomes literature. That intensity may be a matter of style, situation, character, emotional tone, or idea, or half a dozen other things. It may also be a perfection of control over the movement of a story similar to the control a great pitcher has over the ball.


Raymond Chandler (1888-1959, American author)


Speak of the moderns without contempt, and of the ancients without idolatry.


Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield (1694-1773, British statesman, author)


One sits down first; one thinks afterwards.


Jean Cocteau (1889-1963, French author, filmmaker)


The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order.


Jean Cocteau (1889-1963, French author, filmmaker)


One learns little more about a man from his feats of literary memory than from the feats of his alimentary canal.


Frank Moore Colby (1865-1925, American editor, essayist)


Just as it is true that a stream cannot rise above its source, so it is true that a national literature cannot rise above the moral level of the social conditions of the people from whom it derives its inspiration.


James Connolly


The test of literature is, I suppose, whether we ourselves live more intensely for the reading of it.


Elizabeth Drew (1887-1965, Anglo-American author, critic)


When we read of human beings behaving in certain ways, with the approval of the author, who gives his benediction to this behavior by his attitude towards the result of the behavior arranged by himself, we can be influenced towards behaving in the same way.


T. S. Eliot (1888-1965, American-born British poet, critic)


One of the proud joys of the man of letters -- if that man of letters is an artist -- is to feel within himself the power to immortalize at will anything he chooses to immortalize. Insignificant though he may be, he is conscious of possessing a creative divinity. God creates lives; the man of imagination creates fictional lives which may make a profound and as it were more living impression on the world's memory.


Edmond and Jules De Goncourt (1822-1896, French writers)


People do not deserve to have good writings; they are so pleased with the bad.


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882, American poet, essayist)


Large streams from little mountains flow, tall oaks from little acorns grow.


David Everett


Large streams from little mountains flow, tall oaks from little acorns grow.


David Everett


The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn't have needed anyone since.


William Faulkner (1897-1962, American novelist)


To provoke dreams of terror in the slumber of prosperity has become the moral duty of literature.


Ernst Fischer (1899-1972, Austrian editor, poet, critic)


Only two classes of books are of universal appeal. The very best and the very worst.


Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939, British novelist)


In our day the conventional element in literature is elaborately disguised by a law of copyright pretending that every work of art is an invention distinctive enough to be patented.


Northrop Frye (1912-1991, Canadian literary critic)


Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason.


Andre Gide (1869-1951, French author)


The decline in literature indicates a decline in the nation. The two keep pace in their downward tendency.


Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832, German poet, dramatist, novelist)


Life is a great bundle of little things.


Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894, American author, wit, poet)


A people's literature is the great textbook for real knowledge of them. The writings of the day show the quality of the people as no historical reconstruction can.


Edith Hamilton (1867-1963, American classical scholar, translator)


A great number of the disappointments and mishaps of the troubled world are the direct result of literature and the allied arts. It is our belief that no human being who devotes his life and energy to the manufacture of fantasies can be anything but fundamentally inadequate


Christopher Hampton (1946-, British playwright)


I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions.


Vaclav Havel (1936-, Czech playwright, president)


The attempt to devote oneself to literature alone is a most deceptive thing, and often, paradoxically, it is literature that suffers for it.


Vaclav Havel (1936-, Czech playwright, president)


It is a good lesson -- though it may often be a hard one -- for a man who has dreamed of literary fame, and of making for himself a rank among the world's dignitaries by such means, to step aside out of the narrow circle in which his claims are recognized, and to find how utterly devoid of all significance, beyond that circle, is all that he achieves, and all he aims at.


Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864, American novelist, short story writer)


The only sensible ends of literature are, first, the pleasurable toil of writing; second, the gratification of one's family and friends; and lastly, the solid cash.


Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864, American novelist, short story writer)


All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.


Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961, American writer)


All you can be sure about in a political-minded writer is that if his work should last you will have to skip the politics when you read it. Many of the so-called politically enlisted writers change their politics frequently . Perhaps it can be respected as a form of the pursuit of happiness.


Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961, American writer)


Now a writer can make himself a nice career while he is alive by espousing a political cause, working for it, making a profession of believing in it, and if it wins he will be very well placed. All politics is a matter of working hard without reward, or with a living wage for a time, in the hope of booty later. A man can be a Fascist or a Communist and if his outfit gets in he can get to be an ambassador or have a million copies of his books printed by the Government or any of the other rewards the boys dream about.


Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961, American writer)


The hardest thing to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings. First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write. Both take a lifetime to learn, and anybody is cheating who takes politics as a way out. All the outs are too easy, and the thing itself is too hard to do.


Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961, American writer)


There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention.


Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961, American writer)


The self-styled intellectual who is impotent with pen and ink hungers to write history with sword and blood.


Eric Hoffer (1902-1983, American author, philosopher)


Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern; it will come out a rose by and by. Life is like that; one stitch at a time taken patiently, and the pattern will come out all right, like embroidery.


Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894, American author, wit, poet)


The way a chihuahua goes about eating a dead elephant is to take a bite and be very present with that bite. In spiritual growth, the definitive act is to take one step and let tomorrow's step take care of itself!


William H. Houff


Literature flourishes best when it is half trade and half an art.


Dean William R. Inge (1860-1954, Dean of St. Paul's, London)


It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.


Henry James (1843-1916, American author)


Great literature cannot grow from a neglected or impoverished soil. Only if we actually tend or care will it transpire that every hundred years or so we might get a Middlemarch.


P. D. James (1920-, British mystery writer)


The thing that teases the mind over and over for years, and at last gets itself put down rightly on paper -- whether little or great, it belongs to Literature.


Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909, American author)


Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book-friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.


Helen Keller (1880-1968, American blind/deaf author, lecturer, amorist)


For a novelist, a given historic situation is an anthropologic laboratory in which he explores his basic question: What is human existence?


Milan Kundera (1929-, Czech author, critic)


The present era grabs everything that was ever written in order to transform it into films, TV programs; or cartoons. What is essential in a novel is precisely what can only be expressed in a novel, and so every adaptation contains nothing but the non-essential. If a person is still crazy enough to write novels nowadays and wants to protect them, he has to write them in such a way that they cannot be adapted, in other words, in such a way that they cannot be retold.


Milan Kundera (1929-, Czech author, critic)


Those who apply themselves too closely to trifling things often become incapable of great things.


Francois De La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680, French classical writer)


Despair, feeding, as it always does, on phantasmagoria, is imperturbably leading literature to the rejection, en masse, of all divine and social laws, towards practical and theoretical evil.


Isidore Ducasse, Comte De Lautreamont (1846-1870, French author, poet)


Literature is a toil and a snare, a curse that bites deep.


D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930, British author)


A literary movement consists of five or six people who live in the same town and hate each other cordially.


George Moore (1852-1933, Irish writer)


Literature must become party literature. Down with unpartisan litterateurs! Down with the superman of literature! Literature must become a part of the general cause of the proletariat.


Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924, Russian revolutionary leader)


Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead.


Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951, American novelist, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature)


A good metaphor is something even the police should keep an eye on.


Georg C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799, German physicist, satirist)


There is an incompatibility between literary creation and political activity.


Mario Vargas Llosa (1936-, Latin American author)


Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children; life is the other way round.


David Lodge (1935-, British author)


Literature exists at the same time in the modes of error and truth; it both betrays and obeys its own mode of being.


Paul De Man (1919-1983, Belgian-born American literary critic)


Literature... is condemned (or privileged) to be forever the most rigorous and, consequently, the most reliable of terms in which man names and transforms himself.


Paul De Man (1919-1983, Belgian-born American literary critic)


In literature, as in love, we are astonished at the choice made by other people.


Andre Maurois (1885-1967, French writer)


For whatever is truly wondrous and fearful in man, never yet was put into words or books.


Herman Melville (1819-1891, American author)


That is a very good question. I don't know the answer. But can you tell me the name of a classical Greek shoemaker?


Arthur Miller (1915-, American dramatist)


What makes literature interesting is that it does not survive its translation. The characters in a novel are made out of the sentences. That's what their substance is.


Jonathan Miller (1934-, British actor, director)


Literature, the most seductive, the most deceiving, the most dangerous of professions.


John Morley (1838-1923, British journalist, biographer, statesman)


Learning why one great book is just like every other great book is the key to understanding literature


John Moschitta


Literature could be said to be a sort of disciplined technique for arousing certain emotions.


Iris Murdoch (1919-, British novelist, philosopher)


I am not a literary man. I am a man of science, and I am interested in that branch of Anthropology which deals with the history of human speech.


Jim Murray (American author)


If a nation's literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays.


Ezra Pound (1885-1972, American poet, critic)


There was a time when the average reader read a novel simply for the moral he could get out of it, and however naive that may have been, it was a good deal less naive than some of the limited objectives he has now. Today novels are considered to be entirely concerned with the social or economic or psychological forces that they will by necessity exhibit, or with those details of daily life that are for the good novelist only means to some deeper end.


Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964, American author)


The atmosphere of orthodoxy is always damaging to prose, and above all it is completely ruinous to the novel, the most anarchical of all forms of literature.


George Orwell (1903-1950, British author, "Animal Farm")


The existence of good bad literature -- the fact that one can be amused or excited or even moved by a book that one's intellect simply refuses to take seriously -- is a reminder that art is not the same thing as cerebration.


George Orwell (1903-1950, British author, "Animal Farm")


The truth is that literature, particularly fiction, is not the pure medium we sometimes assume it to be. Response to it is affected by things other than its own intrinsic quality; by a curiosity or lack of it about the people it deals with, their outlook, their way of life.


Vance Palmer (1885-1959, Australian author, poet)


Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.


Octavio Paz (1914-1998, Mexican poet, essayist)


Whoever has the luck to be born a character can laugh even at death. Because a character will never die! A man will die, a writer, the instrument of creation: but what he has created will never die!


Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936, Italian author, playwright)


Literature does not exist in a vacuum. Writers as such have a definite social function exactly proportional to their ability as writers. This is their main use.


Ezra Pound (1885-1972, American poet, critic)


Literature is news that stays news.


Ezra Pound (1885-1972, American poet, critic)


The art of letters will come to an end before A.D. 2000. I shall survive as a curiosity.


Ezra Pound (1885-1972, American poet, critic)


It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.


Chinese Proverb (Sayings of Chinese origin)


Even a small star shines in the darkness.


Finnish Proverb


Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.


Jules Renard (1864-1910, French author, dramatist)


There can be no literary equivalent to truth.


Laura Riding (1901-1991, American poet)


The liveliness of literature lies in its exceptionality, in being the individual, idiosyncratic vision of one human being, in which, to our delight and great surprise, we may find our own vision reflected.


Salman Rushdie (1948-, Indian-born British author)


The only privilege literature deserves -- and this privilege it requires in order to exist -- is the privilege of being in the arena of discourse, the place where the struggle of our languages can be acted out.


Salman Rushdie (1948-, Indian-born British author)


Of course the illusion of art is to make one believe that great literature is very close to life, but exactly the opposite is true. Life is amorphous, literature is formal.


Francoise Sagan (1935-, French novelist, playwright)


If literature isn't everything, it's not worth a single hour of someone's trouble.


Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980, French writer, philosopher)


There is no annoyance as great as the annoyance that is made up of many trifling but continuous worries.


St. Francis De Sales (1567-1622, Roman Catholic bishop, writer)


Literature is the immortality of speech.


August Wilhelm Von Schlegel (1767-1845, German poet, critic)


Leisure without literature is death and burial alive.


Marcus Annaeus Seneca (BC 3-65 AD, Roman philosopher, dramatist, statesman)


In literature the ambition of the novice is to acquire the literary language: the struggle of the adept is to get rid of it.


George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950, Irish-born British dramatist)


Life is made up of little things. It is very rarely that an occasion is offered for doing a great deal at once. True greatness consists in being great in little things.


Charles Simmons


Trifles make up the happiness or the misery of mortal life.


Alexander Smith (1830-1867, Scottish poet, author)


Literature that is not the breath of contemporary society, that dares not transmit the pains and fears of that society, that does not warn in time against threatening moral and social dangers -- such literature does not deserve the name of literature; it is only a facade. Such literature loses the confidence of its own people, and its published works are used as wastepaper instead of being read.


Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-, Russian novelist)


Perversity is the muse of modern literature.


Susan Sontag (1933-, American essayist)


Remarks are not literature.


Gertrude Stein (1874-1946, American author)


Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it, but moulds it to its purpose. The nineteenth century, as we know it, is largely an invention of Balzac.


Oscar Wilde (1856-1900, British author, wit)


As life grows more terrible, its literature grows more terrible.


Wallace Stevens (1879-1955, American poet)


How has the human spirit ever survived the terrific literature with which it has had to contend?


Wallace Stevens (1879-1955, American poet)


Nothing could be more inappropriate to American literature than its English source since the Americans are not British in sensibility.


Wallace Stevens (1879-1955, American poet)


The waters wear the stones.


The Holy Bible (Sacred scriptures of Christians and Judaism)

Source: Job 14:19


Each small task of everyday is part of the total harmony of the universe.


St. Theresa of Lisieux (1873-1897, French saint)


By and large  the literature of a democracy will never exhibit the order, regularity, skill, and art characteristic of aristocratic literature. Formal qualities will be neglected or actually despised. The style will often be strange, incorrect, overburdened, loose, and, almost always, strong and bold. Writers will be more anxious to work quickly than to perfect details. Short works will be more common than long books; wit than erudition; imagination than depth. There will be a rude and untutored vigor of thought with great variety and singular fecundity. Authors will strive to astonish more than to please, to stir passions rather than to charm taste.


Alexis De Tocqueville (1805-1859, French social philosopher)


You've got to think about "big things" while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.


Alvin Toffler (1928-, American author)


Already the writers are complaining that there is too much freedom. They need some pressure. The worse your daily life, the better your art. If you have to be careful because of oppression and censorship, this pressure produces diamonds.


Tatyana Tolstaya


Any historian of the literature of the modern age will take virtually for granted the adversary intention, the actually subversive intention, that characterizes modern writing -- he will perceive its clear purpose of detaching the reader from the habits of thought and feeling that the larger culture imposes, of giving him a ground and a vantage point from which to judge and condemn, and perhaps revise, the culture that produces him.


Lionel Trilling (1905-1975, American critic)


Literature is the human activity that make the fullest and most precise account of variousness, possibility, complexity, and difficulty.


Lionel Trilling (1905-1975, American critic)


The function of literature, through all its mutations, has been to make us aware of the particularity of selves, and the high authority of the self in its quarrel with its society and its culture. Literature is in that sense subversive.


Lionel Trilling (1905-1975, American critic)


The rest, called literature, is a dossier of human imbecility for the guidance of future professors.


Tristan Tzara (1896-1963, Rumanian-born French Dadaist)


Sometimes the littlest things in life are the hardest to take. You can sit on a mountain more comfortably than on a tack.


Author Unknown


I have never known a novel that was good enough to be good in spite of its being adapted to the author's political views.


Edith Wharton (1862-1937, American author)


Camerado! This is no book; who touches this touches a man.


Walt Whitman (1819-1892, American poet)


The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.


Oscar Wilde (1856-1900, British author, wit)


Literature is the orchestration of platitudes.


Thornton Wilder (1897-1975, American novelist, playwright)


A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.


Virginia Woolf (1882-1941, British novelist, essayist)


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