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Proust, Marcel

  • A work of art that contains theories is like an object on which the price tag has been left.

  • It is comforting when one has a sorrow to lie in the warmth of one's bed and there, abandoning all effort and all resistance, to bury even one's head under the cover, giving one's self up to it completely, moaning like branches in the autumn wind. But there is still a better bed, full of divine odors. It is our sweet, our profound, our impenetrable friendship.

  • The charms of the passing woman are generally in direct proportion to the swiftness of her passing.

  • A fashionable milieu is one in which everybody's opinion is made up of the opinion of all the others. Has everybody a different opinion? Then it is a literary milieu.

  • I understood that all the material of a literary work was in my past life, I understood that I had acquired it in the midst of frivolous amusements, in idleness, in tenderness and in pain, stored up by me without my divining its destination or even its survival, as the seed has in reserve all the ingredients which will nourish the plant.

  • We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.

  • We do not succeed in changing things according to our desire, but gradually our desire changes.

  • For each illness that doctors cure with medicine, they provoke ten in healthy people by inoculating them with the virus that is a thousand times more powerful than any microbe: the idea that one is ill.

  • If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.

  • The features of our face are hardly more than gestures which force of habit made permanent. Nature, like the destruction of Pompeii, like the metamorphosis of a nymph into a tree, has arrested us in an accustomed movement.

  • The regularity of a habit is generally in proportion to its absurdity.

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

  • Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

  • A powerful idea communicates some of its strength to him who challenges it.

  • Illness is the doctor to whom we pay most heed; to kindness, to knowledge, we make promise only; pain we obey.

  • A woman one loves rarely suffices for all our needs, so we deceive her with another whom we do not love.

  • Our intellect is not the most subtle, the most powerful, the most appropriate, instrument for revealing the truth. It is life that, little by little, example by example, permits us to see that what is most important to our heart, or to our mind, is learned not by reasoning but through other agencies. Then it is that the intellect, observing their superiority, abdicates its control to them upon reasoned grounds and agrees to become their collaborator and lackey.

  • People who are not in love fail to understand how an intelligent man can suffer because of a very ordinary woman. This is like being surprised that anyone should be stricken with cholera because of a creature so insignificant as the comma bacillus.

  • In a separation it is the one who is not really in love who says the more tender things.

  • Our memory is like a shop in the window of which is exposed now one, now another photograph of the same person. And as a rule the most recent exhibit remains for some time the only one to be seen.

  • We are able to find everything in our memory, which is like a dispensary or chemical laboratory in which chance steers our hand sometimes to a soothing drug and sometimes to a dangerous poison.

  • We become more moral when we are unhappy.

  • Everything great in the world comes from neurotics. They alone have founded our religions and composed our masterpieces.

  • Neurosis has an absolute genius for malingering. There is no illness which it cannot counterfeit perfectly. If it is capable of deceiving the doctor, how should it fail to deceive the patient?

  • The moments of the past do not remain still; they retain in our memory the motion which drew them towards the future, towards a future which has itself become the past, and draw us on in their train.

  • There is no man, however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory.

  • Your soul . . . is a dark forest. But the trees are of a particular species, they are genealogical trees.

  • What a profound significance small things assume when the woman we love conceals them from us.

  • Let us leave pretty women to men devoid of imagination.

  • Life is extraordinarily suave and sweet with certain natural, witty, affectionate people who have unusual distinction and are capable of every vice, but who make a display of none in public and about whom no one can affirm they have a single one. There is something supple and secret about them. Besides, their perversity gives spice to their most innocent occupations, such as taking a walk in the garden at night.

  • No exile at the South Pole or on the summit of Mont Blanc separates us more effectively from others than the practice of a hidden vice.

  • An extreme change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.

  • The world was not created once and for all time for each of us individually. There are added to it in the course of our life things of which we have never had any suspicion.

  • I perceived that to express those impressions, to write that essential book, which is the only true one, a great writer does not, in the current meaning of the word, invent it, but, since it exists already in each one of us, interprets it. The duty and the task of a writer are those of an interpreter.