Flaubert's Parrot Quotes

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Flaubert's Parrot Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
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Flaubert's Parrot Quotes (showing 1-30 of 102)
“Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Women scheme when they are weak, they lie out of fear. Men scheme when they are strong, they lie out of arrogance.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness - though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonorably, foolishly, viciously.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“(on grief) And you do come out of it, that’s true. After a year, after five. But you don’t come out of it like a train coming out of a tunnel, bursting through the downs into sunshine and that swift, rattling descent to the Channel; you come out of it as a gull comes out of an oil-slick. You are tarred and feathered for life.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“He feared me as many men fear women: because their mistresses (or their wives) understand them. They are scarcely adult, some men: they wish women to understand them, and to that end they tell them all their secrets; and then, when they are properly understood, they hate their women for understanding them.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“The writer must be universal in sympathy and an outcast by nature: only then can he see clearly.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“A pier is a disappointed bridge; yet stare at it for long enough and you can dream it to the other side of the Channel.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“When you’re young you prefer the vulgar months, the fullness of the seasons. As you grow older you learn to like the in-between times, the months that can’t make up their minds. Perhaps it’s a way of admitting that things can’t ever bear the same certainty again.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Mystification is simple; clarity is the hardest thing of all.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Is despair wrong? Isn’t it the natural condition of life after a certain age? … After a number of events, what is there left but repetition and diminishment? Who wants to go on living? The eccentric, the religious, the artistic (sometimes); those with a false sense of their own worth. Soft cheeses collapse; firm cheeses indurate. Both go mouldy.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“He didn’t really like travel, of course. He liked the idea of travel, and the memory of travel, but not travel itself.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Everything you invent is true: you can be sure of that. Poetry is a subject as precise as geometry.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Life … is a bit like reading. … If all your responses to a book have already been duplicated and expanded upon by a professional critic, then what point is there to your reading? Only that it’s yours. Similarly, why live your life? Because it’s yours. But what if such an answer gradually becomes less and less convincing?”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Loving humanity means as much, and as little, as loving raindrops, or loving the Milky Way. You say that you love humanity? Are you sure you aren’t treating yourself to easy self-congratulation, seeking approval, making certain you’re on the right side?”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Pride makes us long for a solution to things – a solution, a purpose, a final cause; but the better telescopes become, the more stars appear.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“[Flaubert] didn’t just hate the railway as such; he hated the way it flattered people with the illusion of progress. What was the point of scientific advance without moral advance? The railway would merely permit more people to move about, meet and be stupid together.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“It's easy, after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren't writers, and very little harm comes to them.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“The best life for a writer is the life which helps him write the best books he can.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“WHORES.
Necessary in the nineteenth century for the contraction of syphilis, without which no one could claim genius.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Irony - The modern mode: either the devil’s mark or the snorkel of sanity.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
tags: irony
“You can define a net two ways, depending on your point of view. Normally you would say it is a meshed instrument designed to catch fish. But you could, with no great injury to logic, reverse the image and define the net as a jocular lexicographer once did: he called it a collection of holes tied together with string.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Remember the botched brothel-visit in L’Education sentimentale and remember its lesson. Do not participate: happiness lies in the imagination, not the act. Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“If the writer were more like a reader, he’d be a reader, not a writer. It’s as uncomplicated as that.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“When you are young, you think that the old lament the deterioration of life because this makes it easier for them to die without regret. When you are old, you become impatient with the way in which the young applaud the most insignificant improvements … while remaining heedless of the world’s barbarism. I don’t say things have got worse; I merely say the young wouldn’t notice if they had. The old times were good because then we were young, and ignorant of how ignorant the young can be.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“His air of failure had nothing desperate about it; rather, it seemed to stem from an unresented realisation that he was not cut out for success, and his duty was therefore to ensure only that he failed in the correct and acceptable fashion.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“What makes us want to know the worst? Is it that we tire of preferring to know the best? Does curiosity always hurdle self-interest? Or is it, more simply, that wanting to know the worst is love’s favourite perversion? … I loved Ellen, and i wanted to know the worst. I never provoked her; I was cautious and defensive, as is my habit; I didn’t even ask questions; but I wanted to know the worst. Ellen never returned this caress. She was fond of me - she would automatically agree, as if the matter weren’t worth of discussing, that she loved me - but she unquestioningly believed the best about me. That’s the difference. She didn’t ever search for that sliding panel which opens the secret chamber of the heart, the chamber where the memory and corpses are kept. Sometimes you find the panel but it doesn’t open; sometimes it opens, and your gaze meets nothing but a mouse skeleton. But at least you’ve looked. That’s the real distinction between people: not between those who have secrets and those who don’t, but between those who want to know everything and those who don’t. This search is a sign of love, I maintain.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“Everything in art depends on execution: the story of a louse can be as beautiful as the story of Alexander. You must write according to your feelings, be sure those feelings are true, and let everything else go hang. When a line is good it ceases to belong to any school. A line of prose must be as immutable as a line of poetry.”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
“When I was still quite young I had a complete presentiment of life. It was like the nauseating smell of cooking escaping from a ventilator: you don't have to have eaten it to know that it would make you throw up. ”
Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot

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