Reflections

Further 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 are being published in this and the previous 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.

New York is like a toy city at night. There are no windowless walls. There are no walls—only windows. It is like looking through cages. Only in those deep wells where elevators are rising and descending is there shadow or mystery. A powerful, Sibylline murmur rises from their depths.

The resonance of New York: you can hear pins fall, flies wheeling on steel wings, steel walking.

La vérité flotte dans ses apparences.

Every action has its element of artificiality. There is no true bravery without bravado, no true love without sentimentality, no true eloquence without boastfulness. Truth is encumbered with the paraphernalia of untruth.

Between the two contradictory forces which oppress humanity, material optimism and spiritual pessimism, there is no place for the honest man. The soul is not cured by realizing that it is now only a word. We are only half civilized.

To keep on going, close your eyes. Distractions, Life, Work are necessary if you are to stop thinking about Distractions, Life, and Work. One can keep alive only by being too busy to think about it.

Je suis assez grand pour me punir tout seul.

Montaigne advised us to accept the idea of death. It is more difficult to accept the idea of life.

Systems of philosophy, the Arts of Happiness, and other panaceas have at least the merit of pleasing their creators. It is delightful to construct a system, to create a religion, to become a human signpost pointing out the way. And it is the height of wisdom and happiness to fall into the traps of your own philosophy—to believe in the religion you have created.

La nuit dernière insomnie. J'ai entendu sonner quatre heures et je me suis mis à attendre le premier chant du merle. Pas longtemps: je connais mon horaire. Et tous les autres: le terrible "choeur des petites voix." Essayé d'analyser avec tout le sang-froid possible l'impression de détresse produite. Souvenir?—mais de quoi? où? quand? Il y a des moments, des états qui échappent a l'analyse. Oiseaux, taisez-vous. Ne chantez plus. Vous chantez contre moi. Je sais bien ce que vous voulez dire: "La belle journée qui commence, aube fraîche, feuillage humide et tendre, éveil vivace et prometteur . . ." Mais moi, je veux m'enfoncer dans le sommeil qui est sombre, silencieux, ouaté, dans le néant personnel de ce sommeil que j'attends, que je réclame et que vos cris m'interdisent.

The modern conception that science can extend itself indefinitely is immature. Theoretically it is quite impossible that man should know everything; he would then cease to be a man.

They tell me I ought to accept reality. Why not tell me to accept disorder? My cat accepts reality with complete acquiescence; he adjusts himself to it as rubber tires adjust themselves to ruts in the road. That is his role. Must it be mine? However reasonable, prudent, practical one may be, there is always a stubborn something in us which refuses such an acquiescence. For us, living is a refusal to accept such "reality," to fight against it, to create an order which is superior to it. What I mean by "reality" is—the inevitable.

La bonne entente est la moyenne entre les malentendus.

Love is latent in all of us; so is dizziness. The first indication of love is a humming in the ears.

A woman whom you once loved but love no longer has an unfortunate tendency to believe that you have never truly loved her, but that now, now, at last you are about to do so.

Les amants dorment nus et enlancés. Il n'y a entre eux que le sommeil; mais cela suffit. S'ils vivaient dans deux planètes différentes, un gouffre plus infranchissable ne les séparerait pas.

Each of us seeks the being to whom we will dare to expose our inward weakness. When we find such a being, our first impulse is to impress her with our courage.

Reason and happiness make a sorry couple. Happiness demands a kind of intellectual numbness. It is a mistake to see everything too clearly. Let me say, I know that you are deceiving me, but please don't tell me so. I will do the same for you. Choose your deceptions and stick to them. We will end up in perfect understanding. It would be most annoying if you were quite reasonable and matter-of-fact. Let us act as if we were both somewhat slow in our wits, partially blind, perhaps a trifle insane.

Recette pour dormir: Ne pas se coucher pendant huit jours, puis se coucher.

Under the pretense that the love which unites them is indestructible, lovers come to treat one another with a cruelty which the most ferocious hate would hardly justify. The same love which—in their happiest moments—revealed their weakness, now permits them to stab more surely, to wound more deeply. "It's because I love you," they say, "that I speak so strongly. I am hurting you for your own good." Why not admit that we can only really hate the ones we love? But that is inadmissible.

We expect everyone to act in such a way that we can envy, criticize, or even hate him. That is why the truly indolent are so exasperating.

Lorsqu'on sait très bien ce que l'on veut, on ne le veut plus beaucoup. Le désir tire sa force de l'ignorance.

To make a virtue out of loving one's country is absurd. Nothing is more inevitable. You have only to listen to your inward voice speaking your native tongue. Logically, it might be the part of wisdom not to love one's country, but more is lost than gained by such denial. However much I dislike certain stupidities in France, it is better to accept them than to achieve an exile's false impression of impartiality. What are these roots of ours? I do not know, and the whys and wherefores are unimportant; they exist, and to pull them up is a mortal wound.

The tightrope walker misses his former veritgo. He is dying of equilibrium.

Ne plus se plaire, passe encore; mais ne plus plaire autres, tragique. Un levier formidable, la coquetterie.

It is a painful experience to see one we love suffering from the same incurable malady which afflicts us. We are helpless to comfort. Perhaps one can be constructively sympathetic only toward those who suffer from ills we have never experienced.

Every man has his own form of panic. No matter how unkind we are, the discovery of another's Achilles' heel is always painful; it is renewed proof of the fragility of man's equilibrium—more particularly of our own.

La beauté éternelle est également une affaire de mode.

You can never console anyone for anything. All you can do is to help someone to believe the lie he is telling himself.

Familiar hopes reappear like a herd of cows that return to the stable in the evening. When you hear their bells approaching, you know it is time for the milking. A lean herd, like lean hopes, is a sign of poor pastures.

Another day wasted! One cannot but be humble at the end of a wasted day.

Habituez-vous â vous-même; ne vous désolez pas; acceptez-vous. Dans cinquante ans vous serez oublié.

I must plead guilty to the crime of "literature," but I defy you to propose a worthier occupation. I use the words which have created the world, which have created me. I know words; I am worth only as much as the words which represent me. The inexpressible does not exist. Give me time and I will explain everything.

My friend David is pounding on the door of death. It is harder than one thinks to escape from this magic circle of life, from this prison, this discipline.

Each man holds the key to his own death. Some day the finger of Fate will find the combination.

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