Sharing thousands of sparkling, moving, entrancing quotations amassed over decades of slow-savoured reading, to refresh the mind and spirit and invigorate flagging thought and flaccid prose. Dive in!

Poetry as plough

Elsewhere Mandelstam connects poetry to recall.  Here it is a time-turning plough, bringing the deepest layers of time to the surface. And, you could add, enriching the present by turning...

Truly cultured, at last!

Although I never lose the desire for books, there have been moments when I felt overwhelmed by the unread ones, whether owned or just known (luckily I never worried about the...

Do what a hero must

Naturally, any would-be hero or heroine needs to set sail, or how are they to prove their worth? Clive James, from whose splendid translation this and other nearby quotations come,...

Space for thought

I like the notion that a confined physical space need not impede vast thought.  It reminds me of an injunction I read decades ago, in which the headmaster of Joseph...

Mine’s bigger than yours

This is from an engaging Hungarian novel spanning the lives of a fictional Hungarian aristocratic dynasty, from the Congress of Vienna to the eve of the First World War -...

Bread and coins

This intriguing picnic caught my eye, in particular the honey-water soaked barley bread.

"... straight to Pluto's palace. But don't forget to take with you two pieces of barley bread...

Of time and mind

A beautiful story about a Jewish school teacher in a town subjected to Nazi massacre. Rosenthal defends his right to commit suicide if life becomes unbearable. Time, and approaching fate,...

Changed identity – I

Rory Stewart's hike across remote areas of Afghanistan began with a couple of bodyguards assigned to him whether he wanted them or not. The senior of these, Qasim, has a...

A strong soup

Surely one of the most memorable methods for mass disposal of enemies. Hard to compute the numbers in this recipe.  See also Hemingway's lively description of a bad wine. 

'‘I...

Of words, wording and eternity

Part of my blogophyte journey has been to learn about some of the technical workings of the online world, among which Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big deal. Thankfully...

Survival savvy

Listening time: under 4 minutes.

Inspired by the true story of a dog trained by the Soviets to go into space, Vasily Grossman imagines her life in this...

How making triggers invention

After reading a few wonderful books by makers and writers, I have come to the conclusion that their passing observations say more about creativity and innovation than a shelf-load of...

Golden wine and blessing

Hall's book about living, working and travelling in Romania in the 1930s is warm and engaging, and he meets a number of characters in the general Zorba mould.

I wish...

Riding bicycles and darning socks

An irreverent assessment of anarchists, though having never knowingly met one, I can't speak for its accuracy.  Maybe historically there was something to it, but nobody darns anything nowadays, so...

What is more praiseworthy than truth?

A question that resonates strongly today as we become accustomed to new tropes such as 'alternative facts'.  Erasmus' masterpiece, first published in 1515, still has an astonishing freshness and relevance.

'And...

On poetry and human feeling

Apart from pointing me to some translations of Catullus that may propel to me a new level of human feeling, this gives me much to think about. Poetry being a...

Gladness and despair

A finely phrased evocation of the twin elements of human experience of time, every new morning or moment heralding good or bad for somebody somewhere.  We can only work towards...

I have discovered that, with the passing of the years, my ignorance in countless areas… has become increasingly perfected while, at the same time, a lifelong practice of haphazard readings has left me with a sort of commonplace book in whose pages I find my own thoughts put into the words of others.   

Source: Alberto Manguel, The City of Words, CBC Massey Lecture Series (Toronto: Anansi Press, 2007), p. 3

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