Quotations about language, literature and life

April 27, 2012 at 6:02 am | Posted in Quotations | 2 Comments

‘The whole quality of cycling is akin to swimming: the economy of effort, the defiance of gravity, the dancing rhythm, and the general need to keep moving, lest you sink or topple. As modes of propulsion, both could safely be classified as environmentally friendly. I enjoy the gliding, swooping motion of the bike as I enjoy the grace of swimming.’  Roger Deakin. Waterlog, p. 257.

‘Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.’  Richard Steele.

‘Civilisation’s greatest single invention is the sentence. In it, we can say anything.  John Banville. ‘Authors on Writing’ www.guardian.co.uk/books 3 March 2009.

‘Fiction is nothing less than the subtlest instrument for self-examination and self-display that mankind has invented yet.’  John Updike.

‘I quote others only the better to express myself.’  Montaigne.

‘Language is the greatest resource of a culture. It is the repository of thought and the expression of dreams. No activity above the level of brute survival can be accomplished without language. When language is raised to the level of literature, one approaches heaven. Creating a program to develop writers is not a mere idyll for an English department. It is an act of cultural integrity.’  Rita Mae Brown. Starting from Scratch, p. 209.

‘Art only comes when there is abandon, and a world of dreaming and waiting and passionate meditation.’  Yeats.

‘Everything we think and say has a history.’  Andrew Sayers, opening the Manning Clark House Weekend of Ideas April 2011.

‘Without literature, human life is animal life.’  Randall Jarrell.

‘Literature enlarges our being by admitting us to experiences not our own. They may be beautiful, terrible, awe-inspiring, exhilarating, pathetic, comic, or merely piquant. Literature gives the entrée to them all. Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. … In reading good literature, I become a thousand men, and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and I am never more myself when I do.’  C.S. Lewis.

‘Writing enlarges the landscape of the mind.’  V. S. Pritchett.


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  1. Interesting stuff. This subject is one I’ve given some thought to. I like to play a “extreme thought experiments”:
    If the Chinese had spoken English from the start, instead of Chinese, how different would their culture be now?
    Is the mind’s mediation of thought into language an illusion: if we had no language could we still think the same thoughts?

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