Wide World of Quotes > Gertrude Stein Quotes


Gertrude Stein
American writer
(1874-1946)



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Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches.
-- If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso (1923). First published in Vanity Fair.

One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.
-- Letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald (22 May 1925), published in Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up (1945)

Before the flowers of friendship faded friendship faded.
-- This phrase was used as the title of a work published in 1931, but was originally used in Ch. LXII of A Novel of Thank You, written in 1925-1926, but not published until 1958 by the Yale University Press

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.
-- Statement quoted by Ernest Hemingway in his novel A Moveable Feast (1964), ch. 3. This statement also provided the epigraph to Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises (1926).

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.
-- How to Write (1931), ch. 4: A Grammarian

I just tell you and though I dont sound like it I've got plenty of sense, there aint any answer, there aint going to be any answer, there never has been any answer, that’s the answer.
-- Brewsie and Willie (1946), ch. 7

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.
-- Geography and Plays (1922), "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene"

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
-- Geography and Plays (1922), "Sacred Emily", referring to the artist Sir Francis Rose

The creator of the new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he is a classic.
-- Composition as Explanation (1926)

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.
-- Composition as Explanation (1926)

Remarks are not literature.
-- Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933), ch. 7

Pigeons on the grass alas.
-- Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) act 3, sc. 1

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.
-- "The Capital and Capitals of the United States of America", New York Herald Tribune (9 March 1935). Later republished in: How Writing Is Written: Previously Uncollected Writings, vol.II (1974).

In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. That is what makes America what it is.
-- The Geographical History of America (1936)

A master-piece … may be unwelcome but it is never dull.
-- What Are Masterpieces and Why Are There So Few of Them (1936)

Picasso once remarked I do not care who it is that has or does influence me as long as it is not myself.
-- What Are Masterpieces and Why Are There So Few of Them (1936)

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.
-- What Are Masterpieces and Why Are There So Few of Them (1936)

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.
-- Everybody’s Autobiography (1937), ch. 4

She took us to see her granddaughter who was teaching in the Dominican convent in San Raphael, we went across the bay on a ferry, that had not changed but Goat Island might just as well not have
been there, anyway what was the use of my having come from Oakland it was not natural to have come from there yes write about it if I like or anything if I like but not there, there is no there there.
-- Everybody’s Autobiography (1937), ch. 4

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.
-- Picasso (1938)

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.
-- Paris France (1940)

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.
-- Wars I Have Seen (1945). Here Stein is writing about World War II. This statement was written in 1943.


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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