Joseph Brodsky quotes

  • How delightful to find a friend in everyone.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Friendship #Friends

  • There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Book #Reading #Burning

  • For darkness restores what light cannot repair.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Light #Darkness

  • By failing to read or listen to poets, society dooms itself to inferior modes of articulation, those of the politician, the salesman, or the charlatan. In other words, it forfeits its own evolutionary potential. For what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is precisely the gift of speech. Poetry is not a form of entertainment and in a certain sense not even a form of art, but it is our anthropological, genetic goal. Our evolutionary, linguistic beacon.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Art #Animal #Goal

  • Man is what he reads.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Education #Book #Inspiration

  • For a writer only one form of patriotism exists: his attitude toward language.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Attitude #Patriotism #Language

  • Snobbery? But it's only a form of despair.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Despair #Form

  • After all, it is hard to master both life and work equally well. So if you are bound to fake one of them, it had better be life.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Fake People #Life Is Hard #Masters

  • Bad literature is a form of treason.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Literature #Form #Treason

  • When I'm not writing or reading, I'm thinking about both.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Reading #Writing #Thinking

  • Life—the way it really is—is a battle not between good and bad, but between bad and worse
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Battle #Way #Good And Bad

  • Geography blended with time equals destiny.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Destiny #Land #Geography

  • If a poet has any obligation toward society, it is to write well. Being in the minority, he has no other choice. Failing this duty, he sinks into oblivion. Society, on the other hand, has no obligation toward the poet.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Writing #Hands #Choices

  • The delirium and horror of the East. The dusty catastrophe of Asia. Green only on the banner of the Prophet. Nothing grows here except mustaches.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Mustache #East #Green

  • Tragedy, as you know, is always a fait accompli, whereas terror always has to do with anticipation, with man's recognition of hisown negative potential--with his sense of what he is capable of.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Men #Tragedy #Negative

  • The moment that you place blame somewhere, you undermine your resolve to change anything.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Blame #Moments #Resolve

  • Poetry is not only the most concise way of conveying the human experience; it also offers the highest possible standards for any linguistic operation.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Art #Poetry #Way

  • In poetic thought, the role of the subconscious is played by euphony.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Poetry #Roles #Literature

  • Boredom is your window on the properties of time that one tends to ignore to the likely peril of one's mental equilibrium. It is your window on time's infinity. Once this window opens, don't try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Bored #Trying #Infinity

  • The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even - if you will - eccentricity. That is, something that can't be feigned, faked, imitated; something even a seasoned imposter couldn't be happy with.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Happiness #Thinking #Evil

  • What should I say about life? That it's long and abhors transparence.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Life #Long #Should

  • There's nothing as dear as the sight of ruins.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Sight #Ruins #Dear

  • In general, with things unpleasant, the rule is: The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Surface #Faster #Bottom

  • Cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family. Even your super weirdo creep cousin.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Cousin #Family And Friends #Connections

  • Poetry is what is gained in translation.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Poetry Is #Translations

  • On the whole, love comes with the speed of light; separation, with that of sound.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Love #Light #Sound

  • This is the generation whose first cry of life was the Hungarian uprising.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Glowing #Uprising #Generations

  • I always adhered to the idea that God is time, or at least that His spirit is.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #God #Ideas #Spirit

  • Perhaps the best proof of the Almighty's existence is that we never know when we are to die.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Death #Proof #Almighty

  • Love itself is the most elitist of passions. It acquires its stereoscopic substance and perspective only in the context of culture, for it takes up more place in the mind than it does in bed. Outside of that setting it falls flat into one-dimensional fiction.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Love #Fall #Passion

  • ...boredom speaks the language of time, and it is to teach you the most valuable lesson in your life--...the lesson of your utter insignificance. It is valuable to you, as well as to those you are to rub shoulders with. 'You are finite,' time tells you in a voice of boredom, 'and whatever you do is, from my point of view, futile.' As music to your ears, this, of course, may not count; yet the sense of futility, of limited significance even of your best, most ardent actions is better than the illusion of their consequence and the attendant self-satisfaction.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Voice #Self #Views

  • An object, after all, is what makes infinity private.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Infinity

  • ...in the business of writing what one accumulates is not expertise but uncertainties. Which is but another name for craft.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Writing #Names #Crafts

  • Every individual ought to know at least one poet from cover to cover: if not as a guide through the world, then as a yardstick for the language.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #World #Yardsticks #Language

  • It would be enough for me to have the system of a jury of twelve versus the system of one judge as a basis for preferring the U.S. to the Soviet Union. I would prefer the country you can leave to the country you cannot.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Country #Judging #Twelve

  • What I like about cities is that everything is king size, the beauty and the ugliness.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Beauty #Kings #Cities

  • The poetic notion of infinity is far greater than that which is sponsored by any creed.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Infinity #Poetic #Creeds

  • For the poet the credo or doctrine is not the point of arrival but is, on the contrary, the point of departure for the metaphysical journey.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Journey #Doctrine #Departure

  • Poetry is rather an approach to things, to life, than it is typographical production.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Approach #Poetry Is

  • Out of Dostoevsky: Kafka. Out of Tolstoy: Margaret Mitchell. (in conversation, explaining his dislike for Tolstoy)
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Conversation #Explaining #Dislike

  • Who included me among the ranks of the human race?
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Race #Humans

  • For boredom speaks the language of time, and it is to teach you the most valuable lesson of your life - the lesson of your utter insignificance.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Life Lesson #Blessing #Boredom

  • Life is a game with many rules but no referee. One learns how to play it more by watching it than by consulting any book, including the holy book. Small wonder, then, that so many play dirty, that so few win, that so many lose.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Book #Dirty #Naughty

  • I do not believe in political movements. I believe in personal movement, that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change - within himself, not on the outside.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Change #Believe #Men

  • What concerns me is that man, unable to articulate, to express himself adequately, reverts to action. Since the vocabulary of action is limited, as it were, to his body, he is bound to act violently, extending his vocabulary with a weapon where there should have been an adjective.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Men #Vocabulary #Weapons

  • The eye identifies itself not with the body it belongs to but with the object of its attention.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Eye #Attention #Body

  • The fact that we are living does not mean we are not sick.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Mean #Sick #Doe

  • The Constitution doesn't mention rain.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Rain #Constitution

  • Judge: And what is your occupation in general? Brodsky: Poet, poet-translator. Judge: And who recognized you to be a poet? Who put you in the ranks of poet? Brodsky: No one. And who put me in the ranks of humanity? Judge: Did you study it?...How to be a poet? Did you attempt to finish an insitute of higher learning...where they prepare...teach Brodsky: I did not think that it is given to one by education. Judge: By what then? Brodsky: I think that it is from God.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Thinking #Judging #Humanity

  • If one's fated to be born in Caesar's Empire, let him live aloof, provincial, by the seashore...
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Empires #Born #Aloof

  • Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Writing #Men #Careers

  • If there is anything good about exile, it is that it teaches one humility. It accelerates one’s drift into isolation, an absolute perspective. Into the condition at which all one is left with is oneself and one’s language, with nobody or nothing in between. Exile brings you overnight where it would normally take a lifetime to go.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Humility #Perspective #Language

  • The real history of consciousness starts with one's first lie.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Real #Lying #Firsts

  • In the end, like the Almighty Himself, we make everything in our image, for want of a more reliable model; our artifacts tell more about ourselves than our confessions.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Want #Confession #Almighty

  • A language is a more ancient and inevitable thing than any state.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Language #Ancient #States

  • Twentieth-century Russian literature has produced nothing special except perhaps one novel and two stories by Andrei Platonov, who ended his days sweeping streets.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Two #Special #Stories

  • No matter under what circumstances you leave it, home does not cease to be home. No matter how you lived there - well or poorly.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Home #Doe #Matter

  • As a form of moral insurance, at least, literature is much more dependable than a system of beliefs or a philosophical doctrine. Since there are no laws that can protect us from ourselves, no criminal code is capable of preventing a true crime against literature; though we can condemn the material suppression of literature - the persecution of writers, acts of censorship, the burning of books - we are powerless when it comes to its worst violation: that of not reading the books. For that crime, a person pays with his whole life; if the offender is a nation, it pays with its history.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Book #Philosophical #Reading

  • Racism? But isn't it only a form of misanthropy?
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Race #Racism #Misanthropy

  • Because every book of art, be it a poem or a cupola, is understandably a self-portrait of its author, we won't strain ourselves too hard trying to distinguish between the author's persona and the poem's lyrical hero. As a rule, such distinctions are quite meaningless, if only because a lyrical hero is invariably an author's self-projection.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Art #Book #Hero

  • Language and, presumably, literature are more ancient and inevitable, more durable than any form of social organization. The revulsion, irony, or indifference often expressed by literature toward the state is essentially the reaction of the permanent-better yet, the infinite-against the temporary, against the finite.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Organization #Literature #Irony

  • I sit in the dark. And it would be hard to figure out which is worse; the dark inside, or the darkness out.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Dark #Darkness #Would Be

  • A poet is a combination of an instrument and a human being in one person, with the former gradually taking over the latter. The sensation of this takeover is responsible for timbre; the realization of it, for destiny.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Destiny #Poetry #Realization

  • After having exhausted all the arguments on behalf of evil, one utters the creed's dictums with nostalgia rather than with fervor.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Evil #Nostalgia #Exhausted

  • The formula for prison is a lack of space counterbalanced by a surplus of time. This is what really bothers you, that you can't win. Prison is lack of alternatives, and the telescopic predictability of the future is what drives you crazy.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Crazy #Winning #Space

  • All the literati keep at least one imaginary friend.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Imaginary Friend #Imaginary

  • Were we to choose our leaders on the basis of their reading experience and not their political programs, there would be much less grief on earth. I believe ... that for someone who has read a lot of Dickens to shoot his like in the name of an idea is harder than for someone who has read no Dickens.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Grief #Believe #Reading

  • If a poet has any obligation toward society, it is to write well. Being in the minority, he has no other choice. Failing this duty, he sinks into oblivion. Society, on the other hand, has no obligation toward the poet. A majority by definition, society thinks of itself as having other options than reading verses, no matter how well written. Its failure to do so results in its sinking to that level of locution at which society falls easy prey to a demagogue or a tyrant. This is society's own equivalent of oblivion.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Fall #Reading #Writing

  • Perhaps art is simply an organism's reaction against its retentive limitations.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Art #Reactions #Art Is

  • When the eye fails to find beauty-alias solace-it commands the body to create it, or, failing that, adjusts itself to perceive virtue in ugliness.
    -- Joseph Brodsky

    #Eye #Body #Failing