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!

A quotation is not an excerpt.  A quotation is a cicada.  It is part of its nature never to quiet down.  Once having got hold of the air, it does not release it. 

Source: Osip Mandelstam, ‘Conversation about Dante’ (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p. 108

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

An electric moment

An electric moment

Having a soft spot for foxes, I loved this description of a hair-raising drive careering through the mountain roads of Ithaca in the 1950s, with a fox appearing on the road and showing no concern or fear even with a car-load of men shouting at him.  You can imagine...

It will do what it is supposed to do

It will do what it is supposed to do

Listening time: 7 minutes.  This marvelous prose-poem comes from a travel book by the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, who toured a number of Soviet Union states in the 1960s. In Georgia he meets a maker of cognac, and proceeds with a beautiful account of the...

Sheer from the sea

Sheer from the sea

In 1916, in the middle of the First World War, Louis Golding sailed passed Ithaca.  Minds were on other things than Homer and Odysseus, but this evocative statement about the island, uttered by a sailor on the boat deck, must have contributed to his long-delayed but...

Ancient travellers

Ancient travellers

Perhaps this is obvious, but it had never occurred to me in any conscious way, and I wonder how far it is true, as I have a romantic image of people navigating by the stars. Will think about this today when we are travelling to Brazil on a night flight.  Will think of...

Fortune’s favour

This reminds me of an anonymous Elizabethan verse which I cite from memory:


'Lift up thy heart and courage eke,

Be bold and of good cheer;

For Fortune most...

Cooling the ardour of the Archduke

A wonderful, quirky episode in Orlando: a bizarre game played for hours, days, weeks, by Orlando and the Archduke whose amorous attentions she is trying to rebuff.  They play the...

Studying the ways of men

So that's the secret of the fox's cunning - they hide out of sight and study us!  Thoreau has dozens of these tiny observations about animals.

See also Mervyn Peake's...

Kingly encouragement

Surely one of the pithiest, funniest and most ebulliently floor-wiping book criticisms in the history of scribbling and patronage.  All those long days and late nights scratching away with a...

The law of life

We need water for life, and life and water share a fundamental law: change.  They may also share another, apparently contradictory quality, that of being always different and yet somehow...

I love Babur – II

Again, splendid, awkward Babur, the massive mutt picked up by Rory Stewart while trekking across Afghanistan.  Usually Rory has to yank, drag and generally cajole the dog into continuing.


On being attentive and polite

If Dorothea, the heroine of George Eliot's Middlemarch, doesn't win you over with her profound and subtle range of human qualities, surely her respectful empathy towards canine feelings is a...

Maps imagined

I love maps and regularly buy them. Here you have a map inside the map-seller's mind, drawing on his knowledge of the world and its ways. If only one could...

The cry of justice

Sooner or later, someone, somewhere will cry out against a wrong, no matter how small and despised their voice to begin with, nor how long they have tolerated it previously.


Maitreya the Laughing Buddha, my master!


To celebrate World Laughter Day on 2 May, let me share this life-and-laughter embracing quotation from the classical Chinese Expanded Treasure of Laughter, by Feng Menglong (1574-1646).  The beautiful...

A waste of an island

Wonderful notion this, from one of the best of Ransome's enchanting children's books. Of course if you land on an island, you should light a fire, or what good is...

Close questioning

I found this marvelous mention of Moishe the Beadle in The Economist’s obituary of Elie Wiesel. Given how much religious and ideology-driven effort has been exerted over centuries to stop...

Immortality by reading

This wonderful quotation was published in El Pais in the days following Umberto Eco’s passing.  Wishing you 5,000 years of reading-endowed life, backwards, forwards, or sideways.

‘By the age of 70,...


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Love  Enjoy our sister sites:    I


© Beatrice Otto 2021 - design & content unless otherwise stated - all rights reserved


Pin It on Pinterest