Wide World of Quotes > Paul Valéry Quotes


Paul Valéry
French poet, essayist, and philosopher
(1871-1945)



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La bêtise n’est pas mon fort. J’ai vu beaucoup d’individus; j’ai visité quelques nations; j’ai pris ma part d’entreprises diverses sans les aimer; j’ai mangé presque tous les jours; j’ai touché à des femmes. Je revois maintenant quelques centaines de visages, deux ou trois grands spectacles, et peut-être la substance de vingt livres. Je n’ai pas retenu le meilleur ni le pire de ces choses : est resté ce qui l’a pu.
Stupidity is not my strong point. I have seen many individuals; I have visited a number of nations; I have engaged in different businesses without liking them; I have eaten almost every day; I have touched women. I now see again some hundreds of faces, two three great plays, and perhaps the substance of twenty books. I have not retained the best nor the worst of those things: what has remained is what has been possible.
-- La soirée avec monsieur Teste (An Evening with Mr. Teste) (1896)

Qui pleure là, sinon le vent simple, à cette heure
Seule, avec diamants extrêmes?... Mais qui pleure,
Si proche de moi-même au moment de pleurer?

Who, if not the single wind, is sighing
Alone here with distant diamonds dying?
Whose sob so near myself is taking place?
-- Opening lines of the poem, La Jeune Parque [The Youngest of the Fates] (1917) (English translation from Selected Writings of Paul Valery. New Directions, 1964.)

Le vent se lève!... Il faut tenter de vivre!
The wind rises!... We must try to live!
-- Poem "Le Cimetière marin” (The Graveyard by the Sea), published in the book Charmes ou poèmes (1922)

Nous autres, civilisations, nous savons maintenant que nous sommes mortelles.
We civilizations, we now know that we are mortel.
-- Opening lines of La Crise de l’esprit [The Crisis of the Spirit) (1919)

Un poème n'est jamais achevé -- c'est toujours un accident qui le termine, c'est-à-dire qui le donne au public.
A poem is never finished; it is always an accident that puts a stop to to it, that gives it to the public.
-- Littérature [Literature] (1930)

Il ne faut appeler Science que l'ensemble des recettes qui réussissent toujours. -- Tout le reste est littérature.
The term Science should not be given to anything but the aggregate of the recipes that are always successful. All the rest is literature.
-- Moralités (1932)

La politique est l'art d'empêcher les gens de se mêler de ce qui les regarde.
Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.
-- Tel Quel 2 (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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