There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.— Joseph Brodsky
The most unpopular Joseph Brodsky quotes that are glad to read
How delightful to find a friend in everyone.
Twentieth-century Russian literature has produced nothing special except perhaps one novel and two stories by Andrei Platonov, who ended his days sweeping streets.
Were we to choose our leaders on the basis of their reading experience and not their political programs, there would be much less grief on earth. I believe ... that for someone who has read a lot of Dickens to shoot his like in the name of an idea is harder than for someone who has read no Dickens.
There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even-if you will-eccentricity. That is, something that can't be feigned, faked, imitated; something even a seasoned imposter couldn't be happy with.
I sit in the dark. And it would be hard to figure out which is worse; the dark inside, or the darkness out.
What I like about cities is that everything is king size, the beauty and the ugliness.
Geography blended with time equals destiny.
Life is a game with many rules but no referee.
One learns how to play it more by watching it than by consulting any book, including the holy book. Small wonder, then, that so many play dirty, that so few win, that so many lose.
Cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family.
Even your super weirdo creep cousin.
I was quite happy in Arkhangelsk.Subsequently, I was sent to a village. I liked it in its own way because it sounded to me very much like the tradition of a hired man in any world-class poem. That's what I was, a hired man. I was working for a collective farm.
I had this fantasy of becoming a neurosurgeon.
You know, the normal Jewish boy fantasy, but I wanted to be a neurosurgeon for some reason. So I started in this unpleasant way. I was an assistant to the coroner, opening up corpses, taking the innards out, opening skulls, taking the brains out.
After having exhausted all the arguments on behalf of evil, one utters the creed's dictums with nostalgia rather than with fervor.
Perhaps the best proof of the Almighty's existence is that we never know when we are to die.
Racism? But isn't it only a form of misanthropy?
In the end, like the Almighty Himself, we make everything in our image, for want of a more reliable model; our artifacts tell more about ourselves than our confessions.
Life, the way it really is, is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.
As long as the state permits itself to interfere in the affairs of literature, literature has the right to interfere with the affairs of state.
A man should know about himself two or three things: whether he is a coward;
whether he is an honest man or given to lies; whether he is an ambitious man. One should define oneself first of all in those terms, and only then in terms of culture, race, creed.
If there is anything good about exile, it is that it teaches one humility.
It accelerates one’s drift into isolation, an absolute perspective. Into the condition at which all one is left with is oneself and one’s language, with nobody or nothing in between. Exile brings you overnight where it would normally take a lifetime to go.
The poetic notion of infinity is far greater than that which is sponsored by any creed.
Bad literature is a form of treason.
When the eye fails to find beauty-alias solace-it commands the body to create it, or, failing that, adjusts itself to perceive virtue in ugliness.
Persecution mania is still around. In your writing, in your exchanges with people, meeting people who are in Russian affairs, Russian literature, etcetera.
Love itself is the most elitist of passions.
It acquires its stereoscopic substance and perspective only in the context of culture, for it takes up more place in the mind than it does in bed. Outside of that setting it falls flat into one-dimensional fiction.
After all, it is hard to master both life and work equally well.
So if you are bound to fake one of them, it had better be life.
In Russia, the moment a person opens his mouth you know where he's from.
There's the uniformity of experience of an individual in Russia. When you're about 7 years old you get into school and you get put in this factory or this bureaucracy or whatever. The options are computable. Here it's tremendously diverse.
This is the generation whose first cry of life was the Hungarian uprising.
A language is a more ancient and inevitable thing than any state.
Boredom is your window on the properties of time that one tends to ignore to the likely peril of one's mental equilibrium. It is your window on time's infinity. Once this window opens, don't try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open.
Creativity is an unending exercise in uncertainty.
Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul.
For a writer only one form of patriotism exists: his attitude toward language.
I do not believe in political movements.
I believe in personal movement, that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change - within himself, not on the outside.
The formula for prison is a lack of space counterbalanced by a surplus of time.
This is what really bothers you, that you can't win. Prison is lack of alternatives, and the telescopic predictability of the future is what drives you crazy.
It would be enough for me to have the system of a jury of twelve versus the system of one judge as a basis for preferring the U.S. to the Soviet Union. I would prefer the country you can leave to the country you cannot.
Because every book of art, be it a poem or a cupola, is understandably a self-portrait of its author, we won't strain ourselves too hard trying to distinguish between the author's persona and the poem's lyrical hero. As a rule, such distinctions are quite meaningless, if only because a lyrical hero is invariably an author's self-projection.
The real history of consciousness starts with one's first lie.
I got caught up in the proletariat the way Marx describes it.
If one's fated to be born in Caesar's Empire, let him live aloof, provincial, by the seashore.
...in the business of writing what one accumulates is not expertise but uncertainties. Which is but another name for craft.
I grew up in the sort of cultural milieu that always regarded conversations about the political discourse as tremendously low-brow.
In sissy times, like these, one
What should I say about life? That it's long and abhors transparence.
I always adhered to the idea that God is time, or at least that His spirit is.
A poet is a combination of an instrument and a human being in one person, with the former gradually taking over the latter. The sensation of this takeover is responsible for timbre; the realization of it, for destiny.
No matter under what circumstances you leave it, home does not cease to be home.
No matter how you lived there - well or poorly.
In general, with things unpleasant, the rule is: The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface.
When Thomas Mann arrived in California from Germany, they asked him about German literature. And he said, 'German literature is where I am.' It's really a bit grand, but if a German can afford it, I can afford it.