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saul bellow Quotes

Saul Bellow Quotes

Birth Date: 1915-06-10 (Thursday, June 10th, 1915)
Date of Death: 2005-04-05 (Tuesday, April 5th, 2005)



    • Goodness is achieved not in a vacuum, but in the company of other men, attended by love.
    • There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book.
    • All human accomplishment has the same origin, identically. Imagination is a force of nature. Is this not enough to make a person full of ecstasy? Imagination, imagination, imagination. It converts to actual. It sustains, it alters, it redeems!
    • We are all such accidents. We do not make up history and culture. We simply appear, not by our own choice. We make what we can of our condition with the means available. We must accept the mixture as we find it - the impurity of it, the tragedy of it, the hope of it.
    • We mustn't forget how quickly the visions of genius become the canned goods of intellectuals.
    • I think that New York is not the cultural center of America, but the business and administrative center of American culture.
    • Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.
    • Once you had read the Psychopathology of Everyday Life, you knew that everyday life was psychopathology.
    • I never yet touched a fig leaf that didn't turn into a price tag.
    • No realistic, sane person goes around Chicago without protection.
    • Writers are greatly respected. The intelligent public is wonderfully patient with them, continues to read them, and endures disappointment after disappointment, waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, social theory, and what it cannot hear from pure science. Out of the struggle at the center has come an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are and what this life is for.
    • A novel is balanced between a few true impressions and the multitude of false ones that make up most of what we call life. It tells us that for every human being there is a diversity of existences, that the single existence is itself an illusion in part, that these many existences signify something, tend to something, fulfill something; it promises us meaning, harmony, and even justice.
    • Our media make crisis chatter out of news and fill our minds with anxious phantoms of the real thing - a summit in Helsinki, a treaty in Egypt, a constitutional crisis in India, a vote in the U.N., the financial collapse of New York. We can't avoid being politicized (a word as murky as the condition which it describes) because it is necessary after all to know what is going on. Worse yet, what is going on will not let us alone. Neither the facts nor the deformations, the insidious platitudes of the media (tormenting because the underlying realities are so large and so terrible), can be screened out. The study of literature itself is heavily 'politicized.'
    • For the first time in history, the human species as a whole has gone into politics. Everyone is in the act, and there is no telling what may come of it.
    • A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.
    • There are evils, as someone has pointed out, that have the ability to survive identification and go on for ever - money, for instance, or war.
    • Psychoanalysis pretends to investigate the Unconscious. The Unconscious by definition is what you are not conscious of. But the Analysts already know what's in it. They should, because they put it all in beforehand. It's like an Easter Egg hunt.
    • Human beings can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.
    • A good American makes propaganda for whatever existence has forced him to become.
    • I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, 'To hell with you.'
    • Any artist should be grateful for a naive grace which puts him beyond the need to reason elaborately.
    • In the greatest confusion there is still an open channel to the soul. It may be difficult to find because by midlife it is overgrown, and some of the wildest thickets that surround it grow out of what we describe as our education. But the channel is always there, and it is our business to keep it open, to have access to the deepest part of ourselves.
    • California's like an artificial limb the rest of the country doesn't really need. You can quote me.
    • I am an American, Chicago born - Chicago, that somber city - and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.
    • Everybody knows there is no fineness or accuracy of suppression; if you hold down one thing, you hold down the adjoining.
    • As for types like my own, obscurely motivated by the conviction that our existence was worthless if we didn't make a turning point of it, we were assigned to the humanities, to poetry, philosophy, painting - the nursery games of humankind, which had to be left behind when the age of science began. The humanities would be called upon to choose a wallpaper for the crypt, as the end drew near.
    • There is no need to make an inventory of the times. It is demoralizing to describe ourselves to ourselves yet again. It is especially hard on us since we believe (as we have been educated to believe) that history has formed us and that we are all mini-summaries of the present age.
    • The principles of Western liberalism seem no longer to lend themselves to effective action. Deprived of the expressive power, we are awed by it, have a hunger for it, and are afraid of it. Thus we praise the gray dignity of our soft-spoken leaders, but in our hearts we are suckers for passionate outbursts, even when those passionate outbursts are hypocritical and falsely motivated.
    • When we read the best nineteenth- and twentieth-century novelists, we soon realize that they are trying in a variety of ways to establish a definition of human nature, to justify the continuation of life as well as the writing of novels.
    • Anxiety destroys scale, and suffering makes us lose perspective.
    • It seems hard for the American people to believe that anything could be more exciting than the times themselves. What we read daily and view on the TV has thrust imagined forms into the shadow. We are staggeringly rich in facts, in things, and perhaps, like the nouveau riche of other ages, we want our wealth faithfully reproduced by the artist.
    • It's hard for writers to get on with their work if they are convinced that they owe a concrete debt to experience and cannot allow themselves the privilege of ranging freely through social classes and professional specialties. A certain pride in their own experience, perhaps a sense of the property rights of others in their experience, holds them back.
    • Apparently the rise of consciousness is linked to certain kinds of privation. It is the bitterness of self-consciousness that we knowers know best. Critical of the illusions that sustained mankind in earlier times, this self-consciousness of ours does little to sustain us now. The question is: which is disenchanted, the world itself or the consciousness we have of it?
    • Americans must be the most sententious people in history. Far too busy to be religious, they have always felt that they sorely needed guidance.
    • In an age of enormities, the emotions are naturally weakened. We are continually called upon to have feelings - about genocide, for instance, or about famine or the blowing up of passenger planes - and we are all aware that we are incapable of reacting appropriately. A guilty consciousness of emotional inadequacy or impotence makes people doubt their own human weight.
    • Can we find nothing good to say about TV? Well, yes, it brings scattered solitaries into a sort of communion. TV allows your isolated American to think that he participates in the life of the entire country. It does not actually place him in a community, but his heart is warmed with the suggestion (on the whole false) that there is a community somewhere in the vicinity and that his atomized consciousness will be drawn back toward the whole.
    • Pointless but intense excitement holds us in TV dramas. We hear threatening music. A killer with a gun steals into the bedroom of a sleeping woman. More subliminal sounds of danger, pointlessly ominous. The woman wakes and runs into the kitchen for a knife. The cops are on the case. We watch as the criminal is pursued through night streets; shots, a death; a body falls from a roof. Then time is up, another drama begins. Now we are in a church. No, we are in a lecture hall; no again - a drawer opens in a morgue. A woman is looking for her kidnapped child. Then that ends, and we are on the veld with zebras and giraffes. Then with Lenin at a mass meeting. And suddenly we flash away to a cooking school; we are shown how to stuff a turkey. Next the Berlin Wall comes down. Or flags are burning. Or a panel is worrying about the rug crisis. More and more public themes, with less and less personal consciousness. Clearly, personal consciousness is shrinking.
    • Writers, poets, painters, musicians, philosophers, political thinkers, to name only a few of the categories affected, must woo their readers, viewers, listeners, from distraction. To this we must add, for simple realism demands it, that these same writers, painters, etc., are themselves the children of distraction. As such, they are peculiarly qualified to approach the distracted multitudes. They will have experienced the seductions as well as the destructiveness of the forces we have been considering here. This is the destructive element in which we do not need to be summoned to immerse ourselves, for we were born to it.
    • There is simply too much to think about. It is hopeless - too many kinds of special preparation are required. In electronics, in economics, in social analysis, in history, in psychology, in international politics, most of us are, given the oceanic proliferating complexity of things, paralyzed by the very suggestion that we assume responsibility for so much. This is what makes packaged opinion so attractive.
    • One naturally regrets not being an expert or one of those insiders who thoroughly understand. It's hell to be an amateur. A little reflection calms your sorrow, however. The experts in their own little speedboat, the rest of us floating with the rest of mankind in a great barge - that is the picture.
    • In politics continental Europe was infantile - horrifying. What America lacked, for all its political stability, was the capacity to enjoy intellectual pleasures as though they were sensual pleasures. This is what Europe offered, or was said to offer.
    • There's something that remains barbarous in educated people, and lately I've more and more had the feeling that we are nonwondering primitives. And why is it that we no longer marvel at these technological miracles? They've become the external facts of every life. We've all been to the university, we've had introductory courses in everything, and therefore we have persuaded ourselves that if we had the time to apply ourselves to these scientific marvels, we would understand them. But of course that's an illusion. It couldn't happen. Even among people who have had careers in science. They know no more about how it all works than we do. So we are in the position of savage men who, however, have been educated into believing that they are capable of understanding everything. Not that we actually do understand, but that we have the capacity.
    • We take foreigners to be incomplete Americans - convinced that we must help and hasten their evolution.
    • Much of junk culture has a core of crisis - shoot-outs, conflagrations, bodies weltering in blood, naked embracers or rapist-stranglers. The sounds of junk culture are heard over a ground bass of extremism. Our entertainments swarm with specters of world crisis. Nothing moderate can have any claim to our attention.
    • All a writer has to do to get a woman is to say he's a writer. It's an aphrodisiac.
    • If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.
    • Take our politicians: they're a bunch of yo-yos. The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of cliches.
    • What is art but a way of seeing?
    • Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.
    • You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.
    • When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.
    • saul bellow

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