Each man has a quiet that revolves
around him as he beats his head against the earth.
— Ilya Kaminsky, from “In Our Time (formerly, Of Deafness)”
There is a time for reciting poems and a time for fists.
— Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives
Everything must have been once. That’s why life seems to me like a ghostly undulation. History does not repeat itself; yet it seems as if our lives are caught in the reflections of a past world, whose delayed echoes we prolong. Memory is an argument not only against time but also against this world. It half uncovers the probable worlds of the past, crowning them with a vision of paradise. Regrets spring from the nadir of memory.
— E. M. Cioran, Tears and Saints, trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston
Some one said: ‘The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.’ Precisely, and they are that which we know.
— T. S. Eliot, from “Tradition and the Individual”
… we localise in the body of a person all the potentialities of that person’s life…
— Marcel Proust, Le Côté de Guermantes, trans. Moncrieff and Kilmartin
The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
Who has never killed an hour? Not casually or without thought, but carefully: a premeditated murder of minutes. The violence comes from a combination of giving up, not caring, and a resignation that getting past it is all you can hope to accomplish. So you kill the hour. You do not work, you do not read, you do not daydream. If you sleep it is not because you need to sleep. And when at last it is over, there is no evidence: no weapon, no blood, and no body. The only clue might be the shadows beneath your eyes or a terribly thin line near the corner of your mouth indicating something has been suffered, that in the privacy of your life you have lost something and the loss is too empty to share.
— Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
— Jack Gilbert, Tear it Down
No one invents an absence:
Cadmium yellow, duckweed, the capercaillie
—see how the hand we would name restrains itself
till all our stories end in monochrome;
the path through the meadow
reaching no logical end;
nothing but colour: bedstraw and ladies’ mantle;
nothing sequential; nothing as chapter and verse.
No one invents the quiet that runs in the grass,
the summer wind, the sky, the meadowlark;
and always the gift of the world, the undecided:
first light and damson blue ad infinitum.
— John Burnside, “Si Dieu n’existait pas”
Some of Melville’s rough notes for the composition of Moby-Dick, written on the rear flyleaf of the seventh volume of his set of The dramatic works of William Shakespeare: with a life of the poet and notes, original and selected, published by Hilliard, Gray and Co., 1837 (via Harvard)
Charles Olson provides a transcription of the text in Call Me Ishmael:
Ego non baptizo te in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti—sed in nomine Diaboli.—madness is undefinable—
It & right reason extremes of one,—not the (black art) Goetic but Theurgic magic—seeks converse with the Intelligence, Power, the Angel.
I prayed to rediscover my childhood, and it has come back, and I feel that it is just as difficult as it used to be, and that growing older has served no purpose at all.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
T. S. Eliot’s manuscript of The Waste Land.
Alienation? No, let us try to admit that this alienation is not so bad… Emptiness? The absurdity of existence? Nothingness? Don’t let us exaggerate! A god or ideals are not necessary to discover supreme values. We only have to go for three days without eating anything for a crumb to become our supreme goal…
— Witold Gombrowicz