Anatole France

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Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
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Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom.

Anatole France (16 April 184412 October 1924), born Jacques Anatole François Thibault, was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature (1921)

Sourced

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another.
It is by acts, and not by ideas that people live.
  • Il est dans la nature humaine de penser sagement et d'agir d'une façon absurde.
    • It is human nature to think wisely and to act in an absurd fashion.
  • Il est sage de ne mettre ni crainte, ni espérance dans l’avenir incertain.
  • Le christianisme a beaucoup fait pour l’amour en en faisant un péché.
    • Christianity has done a great deal for love by making it a sin.
    • Variant translation: Religion has done love a great service by making it a sin.
  • La souffrance! quelle divine méconnu! Nous lui devons tout ce qu'il ya de bon en nous, tout ce qui donne du prix à la vie; nous lui devons la pitié, nous lui devons le courage, nous lui devons toutes les vertus.
    • Suffering — how divine it is, how misunderstood! We owe to it all that is good in us, all that gives value to life; we owe to it pity, we owe to it courage, we owe to it all the virtues.
      • Le Jardin d'Épicure [Epicure's Garden] (1894)
  • En art comme en amour, l'instinct suffit.
    • In art as in love, instinct is enough.
      • Le Jardin d'Épicure [The Epicure's Garden] (1894)
  • S’il fallait absolument choisir, j’aimerais mieux faire une chose immorale qu’une chose cruelle.
    • If it were absolutely necessary to choose, I would rather be guilty of an immoral act than of a cruel one.
  • La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.
    • The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
    • Variant: How noble the law, in its majestic equality, that both the rich and poor are equally prohibited from peeing in the streets, sleeping under bridges, and stealing bread!
  • II n'ya que les pauvres gens qui payent comptant. Ce n'est pas par vertu; c'est parce qu'on ne leur fait pas crédit.
    • It is only the poor who pay cash, and that not from virtue, but because they are refused credit.
  • L'ignorance et l'erreur sont nécessaires à la vie comme le pain et l'eau.
    • Ignorance and error are necessary to life, like bread and water.
  • Ce sont les hommes qui n'aiment pas les femmes qui s'intéressent à la toilette des femmes. Et les hommes qui aiment les femmes ne voient pas seulement comment elles sont habillées.
    • Only men who are not interested in women are interested in women's clothes. Men who like women never notice what they wear.
      • Histoire contemporaine: L'anneau d'améthyste (1899)
  • Dans tout État policé, la richesse est chose sacrée; dans les démocraties elle est la seule chose sacrée.
    • In every well-governed state, wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing.
  • L'innocence, le plus souvent, est un bonheur et non pas une vertu.
    • Innocence most often is a good fortune and not a virtue.
  • Nous avons des remèdes pour faire parler les femmes; nous n'en avons pas pour les faire taire.
    • We have medicines to make women speak; we have none to make them keep silence.
      • La Comédie de celui qui épousa une femme muette [The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife] (1912), Act II, sc. iv
  • Il ne savait rien, ne voulait rien savoir, en quoi il se conformait à son génie, dont il ne surchargeait point l’aimable petitesse, et son heureux instinct lui conseillait de comprendre peu plutôt que de comprendre mal.
    • He had no knowledge and had no desire to acquire any; wherein he conformed to his genius whose engaging fragility he forbore to overload; his instinct fortunately telling him that it was better to understand little than to misunderstand a lot.
  • Un conte sans amour est comme du boudin sans moutarde; c’est chose insipide.
    • A tale without love is like beef without mustard: insipid.
  • Il est à peu près impossible de constituer systématiquement une morale naturelle. La nature n'a pas de principes. Elle ne nous fournit aucune raison de croire que la vie humaine est respectable. La nature, indifférente, ne fait nulle distinction du bien et du mal.
    • It is almost impossible systematically to constitute a natural moral law. Nature has no principles. She furnishes us with no reason to believe that human life is to be respected. Nature, in her indifference, makes no distinction between good and evil.
      • La Révolte des Anges [The Revolt of the Angels] (1914), ch. XXVII
  • De toutes les définitions de l'homme, la plus mauvaise me paraît celle qui en fait un animal raisonnable.
    • Of all the ways of defining man, the worst is the one which makes him out to be a rational animal.
      • Le Petit Pierre (1918), ch. XXXIII
  • On croit mourir pour la patrie; on meurt pour les industriels.
    • You think you are dying for your country; you die for the industrialists.
  • Quand une chose a été dite et bien dite, n'ayez aucun scrupule, prenez-la, copiez.
    • When a thing has been said and well said, have no scruple: take it and copy it.
      • As quoted in Anatole France en pantoufles by Jean-Jacques Brousson (1924); published in English as Anatole France Himself: A Boswellian Record by His Secretary, Jean-Jacques Brousson (1925), trans. John Pollock [Read Books, 2007, ISBN 1-406-75172-3], p. 56
  • On devient bon écrivain comme on devient bon menuisier: en rabotant ses phrases.
    • You become a good writer just as you become a good joiner: by planing down your sentences.
      • As quoted in Anatole France en pantoufles by Jean-Jacques Brousson (1924); published in English as Anatole France Himself: A Boswellian Record by His Secretary, Jean-Jacques Brousson (1925), trans. John Pollock, p. 85
  • If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.
    • As quoted in Listening and Speaking : A Guide to Effective Oral Communication (1954) by Ralph G. Nichols and Thomas R. Lewis, p. 74
      • Also misattributed to Bertrand Russell, by Lawrence J. Peters, in The Peter Prescription : How To Make Things Go Right (1976), but he subsequently attributed to France in Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977).
      • Derived variant: If forty million people say a foolish thing it does not become a wise one, but the wise man is foolish to give them the lie.

Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard (1881)

Full text of translation at Project Gutenberg
  • Je ne sais pas de lecture plus facile, plus attrayante, plus douce que celle d'un catalogue.
    • I do not know any reading more easy, more fascinating, more delightful than a catalogue.
      • La Bûche [The Log] (December 24, 1849)
  • Les livres d'histoire qui ne mentent pas sont tout fort maussades.
    • All the historical books which contain no lies are extremely tedious.
    • Variant: History books that contain no lies are extremely dull.
      • La Bûche [The Log] (December 24, 1849)
  • Les aimants qui aiment bien n'écrivent pas leur bonheur.
    • Lovers who love truly do not write down their happiness.
      • La Bûche [The Log] (November 30, 1859)
  • Savoir n'est rien, imaginer est tout.
    • To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything.
      • Pt. II, ch. 2
  • Il se flattait d'être sans préjugés, et cette prétention était à elle seule un gros préjugé.
    • He flattered himself on being a man without any prejudices; and this pretension itself is a very great prejudice.
      • Pt. II, ch. 4
  • Les hommes qui se sont occupés du bonheur des peuples ont rendu leurs proches bien malheureux.
    • Those who have given themselves the most concern about the happiness of peoples have made their neighbors very miserable.
      • Pt. II, ch. 4
  • L'homme est ainsi fait qu'il ne se délasse d'un travail que par un autre.
    • Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another.
      • Pt. II, ch. 4
  • J'ai toujours préferé la folie des passions à la sagesse de l'indifference.
    • I prefer the folly of enthusiasm to the wisdom of indifference.
    • Variant: I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the wisdom of indifference.
      • Pt. II, ch. 4
  • Les gens qui n'eurent point de faiblesses sont terribles; on n'a point de prise sur eux.
    • People who have no weaknesses are terrible; there is no way of taking advantage of them.
      • Pt. II, ch. 4
  • L'art d'enseigner n'est que l'art d'éveiller la curiosité des jeunes âmes pour la satisfaire ensuite.
    • The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.
      • Pt. II, ch. 4
  • Tous les changements, même les plus souhaités ont leur mélancolie, car ce que nous quittons, c'est une partie de nous-mêmes; il faut mourir à une vie pour entrer dans une autre.
    • All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
      • Pt. II, ch. 4

La Vie Littéraire (1888-1892)

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
  • C'est d'actes et non d'idées que vivent les peuples.
    • It is by acts, and not by ideas that people live.
  • On reproche aux gens de parler d’eux-mêmes. C’est pourtant le sujet qu’ils traitent le mieux.
    • We reproach people for talking about themselves but it is the subject they treat best.
  • Les plus beaux mots du monde ne sont que de vains sons, si on ne les comprend pas.
  • Il est bon que le cœur soit naïf et que l’esprit ne le soit pas.
    • It is well for the heart to be naive and for the mind not to be.
  • Le bon critique est celui qui raconte les aventures de son âme au milieu des chefs-d'œuvre.
    • The good critic is one who tells of his mind's adventures among masterpieces.
      • Series II : M. Jules Lemaître
  • L'ironie, c'est la gaieté de la réflexion et la joie de la sagesse.
    • Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom.

Unsourced

  • An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't.
  • Existence would be intolerable if we were never to dream.
  • Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have left me.
  • Nine tenths of education is encouragement.
  • The average man, who does not know what to do with his life, wants another one which will last forever.
    • Variant: The average man does not know what to do with this life, yet wants another one which will last forever.
    • Variant: We do not know what to do with this short life, yet we want another which will be eternal.
  • The books that everybody admires are those nobody reads.
  • The impotence of God is infinite.
  • There are very honest people who do not think that they have had a bargain unless they have cheated a merchant.
  • To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe.
    • Variant: To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.
  • Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.

Misattributed

  • Chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when He did not want to sign.
    • Le hasard, c'est peut-être le pseudonyme de Dieu, quand il ne veut pas signer.Théophile Gautier, La Croix de Berny (1845), letter III: Edgard Meilhan au Prince de Monbert [4]
  • Devout believers are safeguarded in a high degree against the risk of certain neurotic illnesses; their acceptance of the universal neurosis spares them the task of constructing a personal one.
    • Sigmund Freud, "The Future of an Illusion" (1927), ch. 8, from The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey and Anna Freud (London, Hogarth Press, 1961), vol. 21, p. 44
  • It was one of the deadliest and heaviest feelings of my life to feel that I was no longer a boy. From that moment I began to grow old in my own esteem — and in my esteem age is not estimable.
  • No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free, none ever will.
  • Of all the sexual aberrations, chastity is the strangest.
    • De toutes les aberrations sexuelles, la plus singulière est peut-être encore la chasteté.
      • Remy de Gourmont, La Physique de l'Amour: Essai sur l'Instinct Sexuel (1903), ch. 18: La question des aberrations [5].
    • Variant: Of all sexual aberrations, perhaps the most curious is chastity.
      • Remy de Gourmont, The Natural Philosophy of Love (1922), the Ezra Pound translation of La Physique de l'Amour: Essai sur l'Instinct Sexuel
  • Silence is the wit of fools, and one of the virtues of the wise.
  • Can any thing in this world be more foolish than to think that all this rare fabric of heaven and earth can come by chance, when all the skill of art is not able to make an oyster!
    • Jeremy Taylor, "Apples of Sodom," Part II, Sermon XX of Twenty-Five Sermons for the Winter Half-Year, Preached at Golden Grove (1653)
    • Variant: What can be more foolish than to think that all this rare fabric of heaven and earth could come by chance, when all the skill of art is not able to make an oyster!
  • You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way, you learn to love by loving.
    • Je ne sais point de plus grande finesse pour parvenir à aimer que d'aimer, comme on apprend à étudier en étudiant, à parler en parlant, à travailler en travaillant.
      • Francis de Sales, quoted in Vie de saint François de Sales, évèque et prince de Genève by André Jean Marie Hamon (Librairie Victor Lecoffre, Paris, 1896), Vol. II, Book VII, Ch. V: Son amour pour Dieu
    • Variant of sourced quotation: Comme on apprend à étudier en étudiant, à jouer du luth en jouant, à nager en nageant; aussi apprend-on à aimer Dieu et le prochain en l'aimant. — Francis de Sales, quoted in Jean-Pierre Camus, "L'esprit du bienheureux saint François de Sales" (1641), Part I, Section 31; published in Oeuvres complètes de saint François de Sales, ed. Jean-Irénée Depéry (Berche et Tralin, Paris, 1875), Vol. I

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