‘Love is the cheapest of religions.’

Cesare Pavese, This Business of Living: Diaries 1935-1950, translated by A. E. Murch.


‘To fall in love is to create a religion with a fallible god.’

J. L. Borges, ‘The Meeting in a Dream’, in The Total Library: Non-Fiction 1922-1986, translated by Eliot Weinberger.


When We Read

When we read, we are not looking for new ideas, but to see our own thoughts given the seal of confirmation on the printed page. The words that strike us are those that awake an echo in a zone we have already made our own—the place where we live—and the vibration enables us to find fresh starting points within ourselves.

Cesare Pavese, This Business of Living, translated by A. E. Murch.

The only advantage to studying is to take delight in all the things that other people haven’t said.

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, translated by Richard Zenith.

The Influx of Botany, Minerals…

‘A trip to Tuscany and Emilia. I thought of my essay on poetry and popular culture; thought, above all, of the connection between the countryside and culture, of the natural (botanical and mineral) roots of art. At Florence (Rovez-zano) in Val Pesa, Elsa – Siena – you felt why that land has given birth to art. The country expresses the grace of Florence and Siena. But when a civilization is no longer linked with the country, what will be the radical sources of its culture? Are we henceforward to be cut off from the influx of botany, minerals, the seasonal changes of the countryside upon art? It would seem so.’

Cesare Pavese, Diaries, translated by A. E. Murch. From here:

‘John Synge, I and Augusta Gregory, thought
All that we did, all that we said or sang
Must come from contact with the soil, from that
Contact everything Antaeus-like grew strong.
We three alone in modern times had brought
Everything down to that sole test again,
Dream of the noble and the beggar-man.’

W. B. Yeats, The Municipal Gallery Revisited. 

The Secret of Happiness

‘To “give style” to one’s character—a great and rare art! It is practiced by those who survey all the strengths and weaknesses of their nature and then fit them into an artistic plan until every one of them appears as art and reason and even weaknesses delight the eye. Here a large mass of second nature has been added; there a piece of original nature has been removed—both times through long practice and daily work at it. Here the ugly that could not be removed is concealed; there it has been reinterpreted and made sublime. Much that is vague and resisted shaping has been saved and exploited for distant views; it is meant to beckon toward the far and immeasurable. In the end, when the work is finished, it becomes evident how the constraint of a single taste governed and formed everything large and small. Whether this taste was good or bad is less important than one might suppose, if only it was a single taste!’

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

‘Why do people adopt poses, play the dandy, the skeptic, the stoic or the careless trifler? Because they feel there is something superior in facing life according to a standard and a discipline they have imposed on themselves, if only in their mind. And, in fact, this is the secret of happiness; to adopt a pattern of behavior, a style, a mold into which all our impressions and expressions must fall and be remodeled. Every life lived according to a pattern that is consistent, comprehensive and vital, has a classic symmetry.’

Cesare Pavese, Diaries, translated by A. E. Murch.