- Naturally I knew that people were inclined to say nasty things
behind your back, but it was particularly exasperating to hear these
three speak about everybody as though they themselves were the finest
people on earth and had been appointed to pass judgment on all others.
They envied most people, praised no one, and knew some unsavoury bit
of gossip about everyone.
- I had never owned toys myself, and while I outwardly treated them
with contempt, I harbored a secret envy of those who possessed them.
- It’s a good thing when a boy and a girl become friends. Only they
mustn’t do anything foolish. And in the most simple way she explained
to us what “doing anything foolish” meant. There was beauty in her
words, and inspiration, aand I readily understood that flowers were
not to be touched until they were full-blown, otherwise they would
give off no perfume and bear no fruit.
- If you had nothing to fear, you’d be left with nothing to boast of.
- The forests are the gardens of the Lord. Nobody planted them but
the wind—the Divine breath from out His mouth.
- According to my observation, relatives treated each other worse
than strangers. Knowing each other’s weak and ridiculous sides better
than anyone else, they spread worse gossip, quarreled and fought more
often among themselves.
- I was possessed by a fierce desire to go away somewhere people
slept less, quarreled less, did not so insistently pour out their
complaints to God or so often offend people with their harsh opinions.
- “What you’ve never felt you never can sing.”
- Somehow I bear a particular love for the sun. I like its very name,
the sweet sound of it, the rich resonance of it. I love to close my
eyes and turn my face to a warm ray, or to catch it on the palm of my
hand, when it thrusts like a sword through a crack in a fence or the
branches of a tree.
- “That’s what I sent her to school for. How did the lady fair come
by her golden hair? She got it from us, from the scum of the earth.
Where else? The more you know, the finer you grow. God sent us into
this world young and foolish, but He wants us to leave it old and
wise. So it’s up to us to study and learn things.” Everyone became
silent when she spoke, listening attentively to her sure, flowing
speech. They praised her to her face and behind her back, wondering at
her strength and endurance and cleverness. But no one tried to imitate
- If they should ever stop shouting and passing judgment on people
and making fun of them, they would turn into mutes, unable to speak at
all, and quite unaware of themselves. In order to be aware of oneself,
a person must bear some conscious relationship to others. The only
relationship my employers knew was that of teacher and judge, and if a
person brought himself to live according to their pattern, they would
judge him even for that. Such was their nature.
- I would marvel in silence. How could you ask a person what he was
thinking about? And how could he answer such a question? A person
thinks about many things at once–about what his eyes are beholding
now, or what they beheld yesterday or last year, all the impressions
vague and confused, in constant movement, constant change.
- “Words, my little friend, are like leaves on a tree, and in order
to know why the leaves are such as they are, you must know how the
tree grows. You must study. Books, my little friend, are like a lovely
garden, in which you will find everything that is pleasant and
- Now I appreciated what was meant by good books and realized how
essential they were to me. They filled me with the calm confidence
that I was not alone upon the earth and would surely make my way in
- “Spit on it!” he said in response to my gratitude. “A game’s a
game–which means, just for fun. But you go at it like it was a fight.
And you don’t have to get hot even in a fight–fix ’em with a cool
eye. What’s there to get hot about? You’re young; you’ve got to hold
yourself in tight. Missed once, missed five times, missed seven
times–spit on it! Step back. Cool off. Go after it again. That’s how
to play a game.”
- “Can’t be helped, merchant! Nobody knows how he’ll meet his end.
Happens a fellow eats mushrooms and–phwit!–gone to his grave!
Thousands of people eat mushrooms to their health; only one to his
death. And what’s a mushroom, after all?”
- “People of their sort, wellfed and comfortable, feel like having a
little fun sometimes, but it doesn’t always come off–they don’t know
how. And that’s only natural, being’s they’re the weighty, trade sort.
Takes brains to trade, and you get bored living by your brains all the
time; want to have a little fun.”
- “Here you are reasoning things out, and it’s too early for you to
do that. At your age it’s not with your brains you should live, but
with your eyes. In other words, see, and remember, and hold your
tongue. Brains are for business; faith for the soul. It’s a
commendable thing to read books, but there’s a limit to everything.
Some people read so much that they lose their minds, and lose their
- Later, after I had met many such people among the intelligentsia,
as well as among simple folks, I realized that their persistence was
nothing more than the passivity of people who had nowhere to go beyond
the point already reached, and who, indeed, had no desire to go
further, caught as they were in a tangle of obsolete words and outworn
conceptions. Their will had become enervated and incapable of
developing toward the future, and had they been suddenly emancipated,
they would have rolled mechanically downhill, like a stone on a
- “If one has strength of purpose, a school gives good training.
It’s only the educated who are capable of budging this life.”