Oh my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible.

—Pindar, Pythian III

People were still arriving from Berlin and other cities. They were loud people who shouted and lied at the top of their voices, so as to deafen their conscience. They were cheats and braggarts and all of them came from the film industry and had a lot to tell about the world, but they saw the world through their goggle eyes, held it to be a commercial failure on the part of God and intended to compete with him and go into business on an equally large scale.

—Joseph Roth, Hotel Savoy (1924)

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

—George Bernard Shaw

Everyone hated him, but they all coveted his sparkling smile, and he more than suspected that all that most people really long for in their heart of hearts, is the unattainable and fleeting glow of personal beauty.

—Frederic Prokosch

Russia was always notorious for the gap between culture and civilization. Now there is no more culture. No more civilization. All that remains is the gap.

—Viktor Pelevin

A kiss is the beginning of cannibalism.

—Georges Bataille

The last work of Tolstoy, which was found unfinished on his worktable: “In the world, there are no guilty.” He was born in 1828. He wrote War and Peace between 1863 and 1869. Between the ages of thirty-five and forty-one.

—Albert Camus, Notebooks

Beauty, Nietzsche says after Stendhal, is a promise of happiness. But if it is not happiness itself, what can it promise?

—Albert Camus, Notebooks

Human beings make a strange fauna and flora. From a distance they appear negligible; close up they are apt to appear ugly and malicious. More than anything they need to be surrounded with sufficient space—space even more than time. The sun is setting. I feel this river flowing through me—its past, its ancient soil, the changing climate. The hills gently girdle it about: its course is fixed.

—Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

We are all deep in a hell, each moment of which is a miracle.

—Emil Cioran