- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Djuna Barnes on Love, Identity, Criticism, and More.


Happy birthday, Djuna Barnes! Here are some quotes from her writing:


“‘One’s life is peculiarly one’s own when one has invented it.'”


“‘To think is to be sick.'”


“‘An image is a stop the mind makes between uncertainties.'”


“[T]o love without criticism is to be betrayed.”


“‘So love, when it has gone, taking time with it, leaves a memory of its weight.'”


“Love becomes the deposit of the heart, analogous in all degrees to the ‘findings’ in a tomb. As in one will be charted the taken place of the body, the raiment, the utensils necessary to its other life, so in the heart of the lover will be traced, as an indelible shadow, that which he loves.”


“‘None of us suffers as much as we should, or loves as much as we say. Love is the first lie; wisdom the last.'”


“‘[H]ave you ever loved someone and it became yourself?'”


“I like my human experience served up with a little silence and restraint. Silence makes experience go further and, when it does die, gives it that dignity common to a thing one had touched and not ravished.”


“We are but skin about a wind, with muscles clenched against mortality. We sleep in a long reproachful dust against ourselves. We are full to the gorge with our own names for misery. Life, the pastures in which the night feeds and prunes the cud that nourishes us to despair. Life, the permission to know death.”


“The unendurable is the beginning of the curve of joy.”


“We were created that the earth might be made sensible of her inhuman taste; and love that the body might be so dear that even the earth should roar with it. Yes, we who are full to the gorge with misery should look well around, doubting everything seen, done, spoken, precisely because we have a word for it, and not its alchemy.”


“A strong sense of identity gives man an idea he can do no wrong; too little accomplishes the same.”


“It is the thing you are found doing while the horde looks on that you shall be loved for—or ignored.”


“The very condition of Woman is so subject to Hazard, so complex, and so grievous, that to place her at one Moment is but to displace her at the next.”


“There is always more surface to a shattered object than a whole.”


“The night is a skin pulled over the head of day that the day may be in torment.”


“I was doing well enough until you came along and kicked my stone over, and out I came, all moss and eyes.


“In the acceptance of depravity the sense of the past is most truly captured. What is a ruin but time easing itself of endurance? Corruption is the Age of Time.”


“Destiny and history are untidy.”


“A man is whole only when he takes into account his shadow as well as himself—and what is a man’s shadow but his upright astonishment?”


“Life is not to be told, call it as loud as you like, it will not tell itself.”


“Morbid? You make me laugh. This life I write and draw and portray is life as it is, and therefore you call it morbid. Look at my life. Look at the life around me. Where is this beauty that I am supposed to miss? The nice episodes that others depict? Is not everything morbid? I mean the life of people stripped of their masks. Where are the relieving features? Often I sit down to work at my drawing board, at my typewriter. All of a sudden my joy is gone. I feel tired of it all because, I think, ‘What’s the use?’ Today we are, tomorrow dead. We are born and don’t know why. We live and suffer and strive, envious or envied. We love, we hate, we work, we admire, we despise. Why? And we die, and no one will ever know that we have been born.”


“I am not a critic; to me criticism is so often nothing more than the eye garrulously denouncing the shape of the peephole that gives access to hidden treasure.”


“We are adhering to life now with our last muscle—the heart.”


“For most people, life is nasty, brutish, and short; for me, it has simply been nasty and brutish.”


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