Literary Quotations
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QUOTES ON LIFE


Some people fake their death, I'm faking my life.

DON DELILLO, Underworld

Life is made up of marble and mud.

NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, The House of the Seven Gables

All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever present perils of life.

HERMAN MELVILLE, Moby Dick

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Macbeth

It's extraordinary how we go through life with eyes half shut, with dull ears, with dormant thoughts. Perhaps it's just as well; and it may be that it is this very dullness that makes life to the incalculable majority so supportable and so welcome. Nevertheless, there can be but few of us who had never known one of these rare moments of awakening when we see, hear, understand ever so much — everything — in a flash — before we fall back again into our agreeable somnolence.

JOSEPH CONRAD, Lord Jim

A useless life is but an early death.
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, Iphigenia in Tauris

Stuff your eyes with wonder ... live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that ... shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.

RAY BRADBURY, Fahrenheit 451

What you haven't done by thirty you're not likely to do. What you have done you'll do lots more.

JOHN UPDIKE, Rabbit Redux

They killed the flirt whom folks called Life for leading them on. Making them think the next sunrise would be worth it; that another stroke of time would do it at last. Only when she was dead would they be safe. The successful ones — the ones who had been there enough years to have maimed, mutilated, maybe even buried her — kept watch over the others who were still in her cock-teasing hug, caring and looking forward, remembering and looking back.

TONI MORRISON, Beloved

Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, The Sun Also Rises

Life is short; this being so, who would pursue great things and not bear with what is at hand? These are the ways of madmen and men of evil counsel, at least in my judgment.

EURIPIDES, The Bacchae

I often wonder: suppose we could begin life over again, knowing what we were doing? Suppose we could use one life, already ended, as a sort of rough draft for another? I think that every one of us would try, more than anything else, not to repeat himself, at the very least he would rearrange his manner of life, he would make sure of rooms like these, with flowers and light ... I have a wife and two daughters, my wife's health is delicate and so on and so on, and if I had to begin life all over again I would not marry. ... No, no!

ANTON CHEKHOV, The Three Sisters

Yes, in my life, since we must call it so, there were three things, the inability to speak, the inability to be silent, and solitude, that’s what I’ve had to make the best of.

SAMUEL BECKETT, The Unnamable

Enjoying living was learning to get your money's worth and knowing when you had it.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, The Sun Also Rises

It is nothing to die; it is horrible not to live.

VICTOR HUGO, Les Misérables

It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure on the world.

JOHN STEINBECK, East of Eden

What was life? It was warmth, the warmth generated by a form-preserving instability, a fever of matter, which accompanied the process of ceaseless decay and repair of protein molecules that were too impossibly ingenious in structure.

THOMAS MANN, The Magic Mountain

Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs.

CHARLOTTE BRONTË, Jane Eyre

Droll thing life is — that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself — that comes too late — a crop of unextinguishable regrets.

JOSEPH CONRAD, Heart of Darkness

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Farewell to Arms

Everybody knows life isn't worth living.

ALBERT CAMUS, The Stranger

Living was a hawk in the sky. Living was an earthen jar of water in the dust of the threshing with the grain flailed out and the chaff blowing. Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Inch by inch. Life is a cinch. Yard by yard. Life is hard.

JOHN UPDIKE, Rabbit Redux

Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.

OSCAR WILDE, Lady Windermere's Fan

Dear friend, all theory is gray,
And green the golden tree of life.
JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, Faust, Part I

There are men here and there to whom the whole of life is like an after-dinner hour with a cigar; easy, pleasant, empty, perhaps enlivened by some fable of strife to be forgotten — before the end is told — even if there happens to be any end to it.

JOSEPH CONRAD, Lord Jim

Life is obstinate and clings closest where it is most hated.

MARY SHELLEY, Frankenstein

Life isn't hard to manage when you've nothing to lose.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY, A Farewell to Arms

What is life but a series of inspired follies?

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Pygmalion

Nor love thy life, nor hate; but what thou livest
Live well; how long, or short, permit to Heaven.

JOHN MILTON, Paradise Lost

He has spent his life best who has enjoyed it most.

SAMUEL BUTLER, The Way of All Flesh

His life seems a sequence of grotesque poses assumed to no purpose, a magic dance empty of belief.

JOHN UPDIKE, Rabbit, Run

Life is nourishment.

JANE HAMILTON, A Map of the World

Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.

RICHARD BACH, Illusions

Nobody teaches life anything.

GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ, Love in the Time of Cholera

This was life, I supposed, running and running and running, and realizing along the way that the phantom was getting closer.

JANE HAMILTON, A Map of the World

It's just because the chances are all against you, just because there is so little hope, that life is sweet.

HENRY MILLER, Tropic of Cancer

Ordinary life was laced with miracles, I knew that, had read enough poetry to understand that we are elevated with the knowing, and yet it was difficult to notice and be grateful when one was continually fatigued and irritated. I suppose that unquenchable sense of wonder is what separates us dolts from the saints and the poets.

JANE HAMILTON, A Map of the World

If life is misery, why do we endure it?

ROBERTO BOLAÑO, 2666

The shock, the power of an ordinary life. It is a thing you could not invent with banks of computers in a dust-free room.

DON DELILLO, Underworld

Living is a compromise, between doing what you want and doing what other people want.

JOHN UPDIKE, Rabbit Redux

If it is life that you feel you are missing I can tell you where to find it. In the law courts, in business, in government. There is nothing occurring in the streets. Nothing but a dumbshow composed of the helpless and the impotent.

CORMAC MCCARTHY, Suttree

Life on earth, filled with uncertainty and change, seemed far more difficult than what lay beyond the grave.

JANE HAMILTON, A Map of the World

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