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gertrude stein Quotes

Gertrude Stein Quotes

Birth Date: 1877-04-30 (Monday, April 30th, 1877)
Date of Death: 1946-07-27 (Saturday, July 27th, 1946)



    • Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.
    • One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.
    • No sense in no sense innocence of what of not and what of delight. In no sense innocence in no sense and what in delight and not, in no sense innocence in no sense no sense what, in no sense and delight, and in no sense and delight and not in no sense and delight and not, no sense in no sense innocence and delight.
    • When I sleep I sleep and do not dream because it is as well that I am what I seem when I am in my bed and dream.
    • Grammar little by little is not a thing. Which may gain. There. Make twenty-five be a woman. The meaning of that does not interest me. It is a complexion that interests that makes ridiculous because that does not make it something else. But it does make them which is again me. Make twenty-five be a woman. I do not lose it. The color is there. Do you see. Dependent entirely upon how one word follows another. Who knows how Howard likes hearing. I can do it so easily it always makes grammar but is it grammar. Forget grammar and think about potatoes. Grammar after all has to do with why they were presented.
    • I tell you boys there aint any answer, just you believe me, there aint any answer,... there aint going to be any answer, there never has been any answer, that's the answer.
    • Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.
    • 'What is the answer?' [ I was silent ] 'In that case, what is the question?'
    • A beauty is not suddenly in a circle. It comes with rapture. A great deal of beauty is rapture. A circle is a necessity. Otherwise you would see no one. We each have our circle.
    • Do you know because I tell you so, or do you know, do you know.
    • Ladies there is no neutral position for us to assume.
    • From the very nature of progress, all ages must be transitional. If they were not, the world would be at a stand-still and death would speedily ensue. It is one of the tamest of platitudes but it is always introduced by a flourish of trumpets.
    • Argument is to me the air I breathe. Given any proposition, I cannot help believing the other side and defending it.
    • The deepest thing in any one is the conviction of the bad luck that follows boasting.
    • All the world knows how to cry but not all the world knows how to sigh. Sighing is extra.
    • It is always a mistake to be plain-spoken.
    • Communists are people who fancied that they had an unhappy childhood.
    • Before the flowers of friendship faded friendship faded.
    • All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation... You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death.
    • The whole duty of man consists in being reasonable and just... I am reasonable because I know the difference between understanding and not understanding and I am just because I have no opinion about things I don't understand.
    • It bothers a lot of people, but like you said, it's nobody's business, it came from the Judeo-Christian ethos, especially Saint Paul the bastard, but he was complaining about youngsters who were not really that way, they did it for money, everybody suspects us or knows but nobody says anything about it.
    • A writer must always try to have a philosophy and he should also have a psychology and a philology and many other things. Without a philosophy and a psychology and all these various other things he is not really worthy of being called a writer. I agree with Kant and Schopenhauer and Plato and Spinoza and that is quite enough to be called a philosophy. But then of course a philosophy is not the same thing as a style.
    • Human nature, human nature acts as it acts when it is identified when there is an identity but it is not human nature that has anything to do with that it is that anybody is there where they are, it is that that has to do with identity, with government and propaganda with history with individualism and with communism but it has nothing nothing to do with the human mind...because the human mind writes what there is and what has identity go to do with that...nothing at all.
    • They were regular in being gay, they learned little things that are things in being gay, they learned many little things that are things in being gay, they were gay every day, they were regular, they were gay, they were gay the same length of time every day, they were gay, they were quite regularly gay.
    • Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
    • I am writing for myself and strangers. This is the only way that I can do it. Everybody is a real one to me, everybody is like some one else too to me. No one of them that I know can want to know it and so I write for myself and strangers.
    • There are many that I know and I know it. They are many that I know and they know it. They are all of them themselves and they repeat it and I hear it. Always I listen to it. Slowly I come to understand it. Many years I listened and did not know it. I heard it, I understood it some, I did not know I heard it. They repeat themselves now and I listen to it. Every way that they do it now I hear it. Now each time very slowly I come to understand it. Always it comes very slowly the completed understanding of it, the repeating each one does to tell it the whole history of the being in each one, always now I hear it. Always now slowly I understand it.
    • Disillusionment in living is finding that no one can really ever be agreeing with you completely in anything.
    • Repeating then is in every one, in every one their being and their feeling and their way of realizing everything and every one comes out of them in repeating. More and more then every one comes to be clear to some one.
    • It is hard living down the tempers we are born with. We all begin well, for in our youth there is nothing we are more intolerant of than our own sins writ large in others and we fight them fiercely in ourselves; but we grow old and we see that these our sins are of all sins the really harmless ones to own, nay that they give a charm to any character, and so our struggle with them dies away.
    • The creator of the new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he is a classic.
    • No one is ahead of his time, it is only that the particular variety of creating his time is the one that his contemporaries who are also creating their own time refuse to accept... For a very long time everybody refuses and then almost without a pause almost everybody accepts. In the history of the refused in the arts and literature the rapidity of the change is always startling.
    • Romance is everything.
    • Suppose no one asked a question, what would be the answer.
    • Pigeons on the grass alas. Pigeons on the grass alas. Short longer grass short longer longer shorter yellow grass. Pigeons large pigeons on the shorter longer yellow grass alas pigeons on the grass.
    • When this you see remember me.
    • I like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it.
    • Remarks are not literature.
    • Poetry is I say essentially a vocabulary just as prose is essentially not. And what is the vocabulary of which poetry absolutely is. It is a vocabulary based on the noun as prose is essentially and determinately and vigorously not based on the noun. Poetry is concerned with using with abusing, with losing with wanting with denying with avoiding with adoring with replacing the noun. It is doing that always doing that, doing that doing nothing but that. Poetry is doing nothing but using losing refusing and pleasing and betraying and caressing nouns. That is what poetry does, that is what poetry has to do no matter what kind of poetry it is. And there are a great many kinds of poetry. So that is poetry really loving the name of anything and that is not prose.
    • When I said. 'A rose is a rose is a rose.' And then later made that into a ring I made poetry and what did I do? I caressed completely caressed and addressed a noun.
    • A master-piece ... may be unwelcome but it is never dull.
    • If you do not remember while you are writing, it may seem confused to others but actually it is clear and eventually that clarity will be clear, that is what a master-piece is, but if you remember while you are writing it will seem clear at the time to any one but the clarity will go out of it that is what a master-piece is not.
    • Nothing could bother me more than the way a thing goes dead once it has been said.
    • Picasso once remarked I do not care who it is that has or does influence me as long as it is not myself.
    • When you are writing before there is an audience anything written is as important as any other thing and you cherish anything and everything that you have written. After the audience begins, naturally they create something that is they create you, and so not everything is so important, something is more important than another thing.
    • The difference between a thinker and a newspaperman is that a thinker enters right into things, a newspaperman is superficial.
    • I like a thing simple but it must be simple through complication. Everything must come into your scheme, otherwise you cannot achieve real simplicity.
    • Human beings are interested in two things. They are interested in the reality and interested in telling about it.
    • A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears.
    • I have always noticed that in portraits of really great writers the mouth is always firmly closed.
    • In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is.
    • Growing has no connection with audience. Audience has no connection with identity. Identity has no connection with a universe. A universe has no connection with human nature.
    • It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.
    • Adventure is making the distant approach nearer but romance is having what is where it is which is not where you are stay where it is.
    • America is my country and Paris is my home town and it is as it has come to be.
    • And so I am an American and I have lived half my life in Paris, not the half that made me but the half in which I made what I made.
    • Everybody knows if you are too careful you are so occupied in being careful that you are sure to stumble over something. ~ Ch.1
    • As there was never any question there was never any answer. ~ Ch.1
    • Before one is successful that is before any one is ready to pay money for anything you do then you are certain that every word you have written is an important word to have written and that any word you have written is as important as any other word and you keep everything you have written with great care. ~ Ch. 2
    • If anything is a surprise then there is not much difference between older and younger because the only thing that does make anybody older is that they cannot be surprised. ~ Ch. 2
    • Suddenly it was all different, what I did had a value that made people ready to pay, up to that time everything I did had a value because nobody was ready to pay. It is funny about money. And it is funny about identity. You are you because your little dog knows you, but when your public knows you and does not want to pay for you and when your public knows you and does want to pay for you, you are not the same you. ~Ch. 2
    • It always did bother me that the American public were more interested in me than in my work. And after all there is no sense in it because if it were not for my work they would not be interested in me so why should they not be more interested in my work than in me. That is one of the things one has to worry about in America. ~ Ch. 2
    • Anything scares me, anything scares anyone but really after all considering how dangerous everything is nothing is really very frightening. ~ Ch. 2
    • The earth is the earth as a peasant sees it, the world is the world as a duchess sees it, and anyway a duchess would be nothing if the earth was not there as the peasant tills it. ~ Ch.2
    • The two things most men are proudest of is the thing that any man can do and doing does in the same way, that is being drunk and being the father of their son. ~ Ch. 2
    • And identity is funny being yourself is funny as you are never yourself to yourself except as you remember yourself and then of course you do not believe yourself. ~ Ch. 2
    • It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing. ~ Ch. 2
    • Would I if I could by pushing a button would I kill five thousand Chinamen if I could save my brother from anything. Well I was very fond of my brother and I could completely imagine his suffering and I replied that five thousand Chinamen were something I could not imagine and so it was not interesting. One has to remember that about imagination, that is when the world gets dull when everybody does not know what they can or what they cannot really imagine. ~ Ch. 3
    • The minute you or anybody else knows what you are you are not it, you are what you or anybody else knows you are and as everything in living is made up of finding out what you are it is extraordinarily difficult really not to know what you are and yet to be that thing. ~ Ch. 3
    • Everybody thinks that this civilization has lasted a very long time but it really does take very few grandfathers' granddaughters to take us back to the dark ages. ~ Ch. 3
    • I rarely believe anything, because at the time of believing I am not really there to believe. ~ Ch. 3
    • A saint a real saint never does anything, a martyr does something but a really good saint does nothing, and so I wanted to have Four Saints who did nothing and I wrote the Four Saints In Three Acts and they did nothing and that was everything. Generally speaking anybody is more interesting doing nothing than doing something. ~ Ch.3
    • If the stars are suns and the earth is the earth and there are men only upon this earth and anything can put an end to anything and any dog does anything like anybody does it what is the difference between eternity and anything. ~ Ch. 3
    • I was talking like this to the Princeton professor and he said well if these are the facts there is no hope and I said well what is hope hope is just contact with the facts. ~ Ch. 3
    • Counting is the religion of this generation it is its hope and its salvation. ~ Ch. 3
    • I do want to get rich but I never want to do what there is to do to get rich. ~ Ch. 3
    • It is a difficult thing to like anybody else's ideas of being funny. ~ Ch. 3
    • Explanations are clear but since no one to whom a thing is explained can connect the explanations with what is really clear, therefore clear explanations are not clear. Now this is a simple thing that anybody who has ever argued or quarreled knows perfectly well is a simple thing, only when they read it they do not understand it because they do not see that understanding and believing are not the same thing. ~ Ch. 4
    • I dislike it when instead of saying Jew they say Hebrew or Israelite, or Semite, I do not like it and why should a Negro want to be called colored. Why should we want to lose being a Negro... I have stated that a noun to me is a stupid thing, if you know a thing and its name why bother about it but you have to know its name to talk about it. Well its name is Negro if it is a Negro and Jew if it is a Jew and both of them are nice strong names and so let us keep them. ~ Ch. 4
    • Since it could be done what was the use of doing it, and anyway you always have to stop doing something sometime. ~ Ch. 4
    • Alice Toklas' father had almost once had an oil well they dug and dug but naturally the oil did not gush, naturally not these things never do happen to any one one knows, if it could happen to them you would not be very likely to know them most naturally not. ~ Ch. 4
    • After all human beings have to live dogs too so as not to know that time is passing, that is the whole business of living to go on so they will not know that time is passing, that is why they get drunk that is why they like to go to war, during a war there is the most complete absence of the sense that time is passing a year of war lasts so much longer than any other year. After all that is what life is and that is the reason there is no Utopia, little or big young or old dog or man everybody wants every minute so filled that they are not conscious of that minute passing. It's just as well they do not think about it you have to be a genius to live in it and know it to exist in it and express it to accept it and deny it by creating it. ~ Ch. 4
    • They wanted to know how I succeeded in getting so much publicity, I said by having a small audience, I said if you have a big audience you have no publicity, this did seem to worry them and naturally it would worry them they wanted the publicity and the big audience, and really to have the biggest publicity you have to have a small one, yes all right the biggest publicity comes from the realest poetry and the realest poetry has a small audience not a big one, but it is really exciting and therefore it has the biggest publicity, all right that is it. ~ Ch. 4
    • What was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there. ~ Ch. 4
    • I was clear, Alice Toklas says and very often mistaken but anyway I am clear I am a good American, I am slow-minded and quickly clear in expression, I am certain that I see everything that is seen and in between I stand around but I do not wait, no American can wait he can stand around and do nothing but he cannot wait, that is why he is not like Milton who served by standing and waiting, Americans can neither serve nor wait, they can stand and sit down and get up and walk around but they can neither serve nor wait. ~ Ch. 5
    • The head-lines which do not head anything they simply replace something but they do not make anything. ~ Ch. 5
    • Perhaps I am not I even if my little dog knows me but anyway I like what I have and now it is today. ~ Ch. 5
    • A creator is not in advance of his generation but he is the first of his contemporaries to be conscious of what is happening to his generation. A creator who creates, who is not an academician, who is not someone who studies in a school where the rules are already known, and of course being known they no longer exist, a creator then who creates is necessarily of his generation. His generation lives in its contemporary way but they only live in it. In art, in literature, in the theatre, in short in everything that does not contribute to their immediate comfort they live in the preceding generation.
    • The surrealists still see things as everyone sees them, they complicate them in a different way but the vision is that of everyone else, in short the complication is the complication of the twentieth century but the vision is that of the nineteenth century. Picasso only sees something else, another reality. Complications are always easy but another vision than that of all the world is very rare.
    • After all, everybody, that is, everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really. The second one is romantic, it is separate from themselves, it is not real but it is really there. (New York: Liveright, 1970, p. 2)
    • After all, human beings are like that. When they are alone they want to be with others, and when they are with others they want to be alone.
    • But as they all say if we sell our home what will we have for it, money, and what is the use of that money, money goes and after it is gone then where are we, beside we have all we want, what can we do with money except lose it, money to spend is not very welcome, if you have it and you try to spend it, well spending money is an anxiety, saving money is a comfort and a pleasure, economy is not a duty it is a comfort, avarice is an excitement, but spending money is nothing, money spent is money non-existent, money saved is money realised... (New York: Liveright, 1970, p. 103)
    • But now well democracy has shown us that what is evil are the grosses tetes, the big heads, all big heads are greedy for money and power, they are ambitious that is the reason they are big heads and so they are at the head of the government and the result is misery for the people. They talk about cutting off the heads of the grosses tetes but now we know that there will be other grosses tetes and the will be all the same. (New York: Liveright, 1970, p. 28)
    • One of the pleasant things those of us who write or paint do is to have the daily miracle. It does come.
    • Politeness does not interfere with facts, politeness is just another fact.
    • Propaganda is not French, it is not civilized to want other people to believe what you believe because the essence of being civilised is to possess yourself as you are, and if you possess yourself as you are you of course cannot possess any one else, it is not your business. (New York: Liveright, 1970, p. 56)
    • The family is always the family but during vacations it is an extended family and that is exhausting. (New York: Liveright, 1970, p. 107)
    • The reason why all of us naturally began to live in France is because France has scientific methods, machines and electricity, but does not really believe that these things have anything to do with the real business of living. (New York: Liveright, 1970, p. 8)
    • There is no pulse so sure of the state of a nation as its characteristic art product which has nothing to do with its material life. (New York: Liveright, 1970, p. 12)
    • A nice war is a war where everybody who is heroic is a hero, and everybody more or less is a hero in a nice war. Now this war is not at all a nice war.
    • Is it worse to be scared than to be bored, that is the question.
    • It is the soothing thing about history that it does repeat itself.
    • War is never fatal but always lost. Always lost.
    • Even the propagandists on the radio find it very difficult to really say let alone believe that the world will be a happy place, of love and peace and plenty, and that the lion will lie down with the lamb and everybody will believe anybody.
    • The idea of enemies is awful it makes one stop remembering eternity and the fear of death. That is what enemies are. Possessions are the same as enemies only less so, they too make one forget eternity and the fear of death.
    • It is funny that men who are supposed to be scientific cannot get themselves to realize the basic principle of physics, that action and reaction are equal and opposite, that when you persecute people you always rouse them to be strong and stronger.
    • The nineteenth century believed in science but the twentieth century does not.
    • The thing that is most interesting about government servants is that they believe what they are supposed to believe, they really do believe what they are supposed to believe.
    • Now they can do the radio in so many languages that nobody any longer dreams of a single language, and there should not any longer be dreams of conquest because the globe is all one, anybody can hear everything and everybody can hear the same thing, so what is the use of conquering.
    • One of the things that is most striking about the young generation is that they never talk about their own futures, there are no futures for this generation, not any of them and so naturally they never think of them. It is very striking, they do not live in the present they just live, as well as they can, and they do not plan. It is extraordinary that whole populations have no projects for a future, none at all. It certainly is extraordinary, but it is certainly true.
    • A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.
    • A real failure does not need an excuse. It is an end in itself.
    • Clarity is of no importance because nobody listens and nobody knows what you mean no matter what you mean, nor how clearly you mean what you mean. But if you have vitality enough of knowing enough of what you mean, somebody and sometime and sometimes a great many will have to realize that you know what you mean and so they will agree that you mean what you know, what you know you mean, which is as near as anybody can come to understanding any one.
    • I don't envisage collectivism. There is no such animal, it is always individualism, sometimes the rest vote and sometimes they do not, and if they do they do and if they do not they do not.
    • A novel is what you dream in your night sleep. A novel is not waking thoughts although it is written and thought with waking thoughts. But really a novel goes as dreams go in sleeping at night and some dreams are like anything and some dreams are like something and some dreams change and some dreams are quiet and some dreams are not. And some dreams are just what any one would do only a little different always just a little different and that is what a novel is.
    • The contemporary thing in art and literature is the thing which doesn't make enough difference to the people of that generation so that they can accept it or reject it.
    • Americans are very friendly and very suspicious, that is what Americans are and that is what always upsets the foreigner, who deals with them, they are so friendly how can they be so suspicious and they are so suspicious how can they be so friendly but they just are.
    • Writers only think they are interested in politics, they are not really, it gives them a chance to talk and writers like to talk but really no real writer is really interested in politics.
    • Most of us balk at her soporific rigmaroles, her echolaliac incantations, her half-witted-sounding catalogues on numbers; most of us read her less and less. Yet, remembering especially her early work, we are still always aware of her presence in the background of contemporary literature- and we picture her as the great pyramidal Buddha of Jo Davidson's statue of her, eternally and placidly ruminating the gradual developments of the process of being, registering the vibrations of a psychological country like some august human seismograph whose charts we haven't the training to read.
    • This book is in every way except actual authorship Alice Toklas's book; it reflects her mind, her language, her private view of Gertrude, also her unique narrative powers. Every story in it is told as Alice herself had always told it....Every story that ever came into the house eventually got told in Alice's way, and this was its definitive version.
    • As I read it, my ears opened up for the first time in my life and I began to hear Negroes... Above all, I began to hear for the first time the pure, deep dialect of my grandmother. And from that moment on, in all my attempts at writing I was able to tap that vast resevoir of living speech that went on about me.
    • Then soon after my delight with Stein was jolted; a political critic of the reddest persuasion condemned Stein in a newspaper article, calling her decadent, implying that she reclined upon a silken couch in Paris smoking hashish day and night and was a hopeless prey to hallucinations. I asked myself if I were wrong or crazy or decadent. Being simple minded, I decided upon a very practical way of determining the worth of the prose of Stein, a prose I had accepted without qualms or distress. I gathered a group of semi-illiterate Negro workers into a Chicago basement and read them Melanctha aloud. They were enthralled, interrupting me constantly to tell where and when they had met such a strange and melancholy gal. I was convinced and Miss Stein's book never bothered or frightened me after that. If Negro stockyard workers could understand the stuff when it was read aloud to them, then surely anybody else could if they wanted to read with their ears as well as their eyes. For the prose of Stein is but the repetitive contemporaneousness of our living speech woven into a grammarless form of narrative...
    • I'll always be Alice Toklas if you'll be Gertrude Stein.
    • Gertrude Stein, all courage and will, is a soldier of minimalism. Her work, unlike the resonating silences in the art of Samuel Beckett, embodies in its loquacity and verbosity the curious paradox of the minimalist form. This art of the nuance in repetition and placement she shares with the orchestral compositions of Philip Glass.
    • A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose said my old friend Gertrude Stein.
    • It will take her years to understand the things she's said tonight.
    • I've been rich and I've been poor. It's better to be rich.
    • It is awfully important to know what is and what is not your business.
    • Let me listen to me and not to them.
    • Money is always there but the pockets change; it is not in the same pockets after a change, and that is all there is to say about money.
    • We are always the same age inside.
    • gertrude stein

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