Reflections

Musings and words of wisdom by a French journalist and historian living the United States
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Journalist and historian whose penetrating and prophetic book,The Making of Tomorrow, appeared in 1942 shortly before his death, Raoul de Roussy de Sales, bilingual that he was, worked ceaselessly for a better understanding between the French and American democracies until his strength was spent. Among her husband's papers, the Countess de Sales found these epigrams, which were written over a period of years and which we shall publish in this and the following issue. The French was often so tight-packed and precise as to defy translation, in which case it seemed wiser to the editors simply to reproduce the original.

The easiest thing to give away is the best of yourself.

A calm, still night, a breeze both cool and warm. I hear the leaves of the trees whispering and the low songs of insects. Nothing else. Where is this scene? Never mind where. It tears my heart out to remember.

Il n'y a pas de raisons de vivre, mais il y a des prétextes.

To a Frenchman, the most important thing is "the scene of his childhood." His being is filled with memories of the place where he was born. He never denies them; even Stendhal, obsessed with his hatred of Grenoble; could not disavow it. That one is born in Saintonge, in Brittany, in Picardy, or in Provence is an important fact. It is important, too, that a cluster of oak trees, a field of broom in flower, a road gently encircling a little hill, a blue-gray sky—that these things are always there in the background, that one feels them, that one has one's roots deep in some small corner of the map of France. If a Frenchman is asked for his references, he should produce a landscape.

Do not complain about your loneliness: nobody is troubling you. Do not shout for help: someone might hear you. Keep quiet; beware the volunteer lifesavers! They will destroy you.

L'ennui est la mesure du temps et de l'espace.

The influence of the heart is no less great than that of the mind, and it is more subtle. There are people who create, about themselves, a certain warmth of personality, who transmit to others their particular emotional atmosphere, who show you how to love, to suffer, to be happy, to laugh at the humorous things in life. Those who respond to this influence may recognize one another by the slightest of signs, by the tone of voice, a glance, a phrase, a gesture. Often they do not know the nature of the bond they have in common until one says to the other, "Do you happen to know So-and-so?"

Women complain so often that one loves only their bodies. Try—at your peril—to prove the contrary to one of them!

When it is as painful to forget as it is to remember, you are in love.

Jean dit à Jeanne: "Vous êtes un jardin où j'aimerais entrer, me promener, me reposer." Cela fait sourire. Il faut pourtant bien finir par se faire une raison: l'amour ne gagne pas à s'additionner de lyrisme, de poésie. L'amour est la chose la plus crûe qui soit; plus il est profond, plus il est dépouillé et simple: "Voici mon sexe, void mon coeur, voici tout ce que je possède." On ne couche pas, en fin de compte, avec la littérature.

Sleep is a locked door to a room which one enters alone.

We are obliged to be friends with certain individuals—in spite of everything. Otherwise we could not forget how thoroughly disagreeable they are. There are others whom we think we should like for one reason or another. What we really want is someone we can love without telling ourselves why.

Il y a des femmes qu'on aime d'avance: on devrait le leur dire et s'en aller.

There is something in the classic style which at times achieves grandeur and, at other times, is merely banal. To a modern, that classic wisdom, that balance, that measure and temperance, are somehow incomplete. Perhaps we have discovered that life is incomplete without some strain of folly, of error, of bad taste.

Even the loftiest literature is, strictly speaking, juvenilia. Older people can only search for their lost youth in books. Life dries up. For the majority of men, creative writing stops in their thirties others are only prolonging an artificial youth. Sooner or later, the voice is silenced.

I have just read Cocteau's phrase in The Potomac: "Écrire, c'est deranger le dictionnaire." I have written exactly the same words without the slightest idea that they were not original. Is there such a thing as subconscious plagiarism? The most honest writers deceive themselves. The best thing to do is not to strive for originality. The classics are mostly quotations.

Il y a des gens qui mentent par paresse; d'autres qui disent la vérité par paresee.

To discuss one's friends with others is the surest way to destroy one's affection for them. If you wish to keep on loving your friends, do not mention their names.

The cat is ill. He neither eats nor cries, but spends his days lying in his basket beneath the table. You feel that his head is heavy and that his eyes are filled with pain, He walks stiffly and stops for rest on each step of the stairs. You tell yourself that he is suffering less than a human being because he does not know that he is ill and that he may die. But he is so wise, so calm, so resigned, he carries his burden with such dignity that you wonder.

La fin arrivera le jour où chaque chose sera à sa place. La vie peut se concevoir comme une tentative d'arrangement.

When you suffer intolerable grief, it is useless to repeat that there is no suffering which time cannot cure. You long for immediate relief. You want to forget the present moment. Tomorrow, tomorrow, you tell yourself, I shall be less miserable—and yet you cling to sorrow more tenaciously than you do to happiness. The present is unbearable, perhaps, because you do not quite dare to admit that you will forget—altogether.

We all know what other people think of us. Yet if, perchance, that opinion is confirmed, we are wounded—or at least surprised. We prefer to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.

To please is a rare pleasure but, at times, what a bore!

Si la nuit porte conseil, pourquoi vous réveillez-vous? Passez plutôt l'hiver en Laponie.

Remember that this man or that woman is just as great a liar as you are. Consequently it is futile to blame or fear them. Let everyone be allowed his own margin of error.

Gather yourself together; force yourself to be silent and still; close your eyes, plug your ears. That heavy throbbing which you hear like the distant drumming of an airplane's engine—that is your life ebbing away.

Records: Je voudrais savoir le jour où j'ai le plus souffert, joui, ri, mangé, dormi, fumé, aimé, tremblé, été le plus vite, parlé, été le plus près de mourir.

I want to live as long as I am myself.

I have had nothing new to say to you for a long time. I only repeat myself. For an equally long time you have had nothing new to say to me. But when will I stop speaking? And you?

Guerre future: Lorsque la guerre matérielle sera devenue impossible par excès de complication (les moyens de défense correspondront aux moyens d'attaque jusqu'à une sorte de stabilisation neutralisante de l'ensemble), on fera des guerres psychiques. On agira sur le moral de l'ennemi, par les journaux, la radio; et grâce au perfectionnement de la propagande on diluera les energies, on bouleversera les réflexes, on creusera des mines dans les subconsciences. Il n'y aura plus que des victoires morales, les plus terribles.

Daily life with its succeeding events, its hopes and deceptions, its half successes and its false catastrophes, is unintelligible. We must create a kind of inner life even if it is an erroneous one. We must at least seem to believe or we are in danger of total disintegration. I cannot blame those who cling to religion or philosophy although my nature finds such supports ineffectual. Most people do so to escape a doubt, a disorder which will overwhelm and destroy them. As for myself, I am only capable of a very fragile faith, a faith which is intermittent and conjectural, but even if I smile at it, I would not give it up. It is a kind of soul insurance whose premiums I pay at irregular intervals, knowing all the time that the company is or may, at any moment, be declared bankrupt.

How many people have thought today about their own deaths? Many, you say. Perhaps, but many more have tried earnestly to think about something else.

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