a moleskine

“…the English language no longer belongs numerically to speakers of English as a mother tongue, or first language. The ownership (by which I mean the power to adapt and change) of any language in effect rests with the people who use it, whoever they are, however multilingual they are, however monolingual they are.”

—C. J. Brumfit, cited in Barbara Seidlhofer, Understanding English as a Lingua Franca (OUP, p. 1)

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“Answers are inert things that stop inquiry. They make you think you have finished looking. But you are never finished. There are always discoveries that will turn everything you think you know on its head and that will make you ask all over again: Who are we?”

—Mary Coin by Marisa Silver (via roseisread)

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“If you ask me about the monks, I speak from experience, not prejudice, and though I have no doubt that some foundations are well governed, my experience has been of waste and corruption… I have seen monks who live like great lords, on the offerings of poor people who would rather buy a blessing than buy bread, and that is not Christian conduct. Nor do I take the monasteries to be the repositories of learning some believe they are… The monks take in children and use them as servants, they don’t even teach them dog Latin. I don’t grudge them some bodily comforts. It cannot always be Lent. What I cannot stomach is hypocrisy, fraud, idleness—their worn-out relics, their thread-bare worship, and their lack of invention.”

—(Thomas Cromwell to King Henry VIII) Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (Picador, p. 202)

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“We can sometimes find a person again, but not abolish time. All this up until that unforeseen day, sad as a winter’s night, when we are no longer seeking that particular girl, nor any other, and when to find one would alarm us even. For we no longer feel we have sufficient attractions to please, nor the strength to love…we feel that it is too great an undertaking for the little strength we preserve. Our eternal rest has already introduced intervals, in which we cannot go out, cannot speak.”

—Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (Penguin, p. 282)

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“We desire passionately that there should be another life in which we would be similar to what we are here below. But we do not reflect that, even without waiting for that other life, but in this one, after a few years, we are unfaithful to what we have been, to what we had wanted to remain immortally. Even without supposing that death might modify us more than the changes that occur in the course of a lifetime, if in that other life we were to meet the self that we have been, we would turn away from ourselves as from those people to whom we have been close but whom we have not seen for a long time… We dream a great deal of paradise, or rather of numerous successive paradises, but they are all, long before we die, paradises lost, in which we would feel lost.”

—Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (Penguin, p. 258)

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“They claim that the saline liquid which is our blood is only what survives within us of our original element, the sea. In the same way, I believe that Céleste, not only in her rages but also in her moments of depression, had preserved the rhythm of her native streams. When she was exhausted, it was after their fashion; she had truly run dry. Nothing then could have brought her back to life. Then all of a sudden the circulation would resume in her tall, slight, magnificent body. The water flowed in the opaline transparency of her blueish skin. It smiled in the sunlight and became bluer still. At such moments she was truly celestial.”

—Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (Penguin, p. 249)

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“Let us imagine a first [lottery] drawing, which condemns an individual to death. In pursuance of that decree, another drawing is held; out of that second drawing come, say, nine possible executors. Of those nine, four might initiate a third drawing to determine the name of the executioner, two might replace the unlucky draw with a lucky one (the discovery of a treasure, say), another might decide that the death should be exacerbated (death with dishonour, that is, or with the refinement of torture), others might simply refuse to carry out the sentence… That is the scheme of the Lottery, put symbolically. In reality, the number of drawings is infinite. No decision is final; all branch into others.”

—Jorge Luis Borges, The Lottery in Babylon (in Fictions, Penguin, p. 56)

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Water Lilies, Claude Monet, 1899

“‘To get back on more interesting matters…you were talking of water-lilies: I imagine you know those that Claude Monet has painted. What genius!’”

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La table aux lanternes, Gerberoy, Henri Le Sidaner, 1924

“‘You will permit me to prefer Le Sidaner, Mademoiselle,’ said the lawyer, smiling with the air of a connoisseur… Mme de Cambremer…much to her guest’s chagrin, ranked Monet with Le Sidaner.”

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St. John Baptising the People, Nicolas Poussin, c. 1636

"The sun just then getting lower…I added that it was a pity that she had not thought rather of coming the day before, for, at that same hour, she would have been able to admire a light out of Poussin… But the name of Poussin…aroused the protests of the dilettante. On hearing the name, Mme de Cambremer gave vent six times, with scarcely any interval in between, to that brief clicking of the tongue against the lips which serves to signify to a child who is in the midst of doing something silly, that he is both at fault for having started and forbidden to continue. ‘In heaven’s name, after a painter like Monet, who’s quite simply a genius, don’t go and name an untalented old hack like Poussin. I tell you straight out that I consider him the most crashing of bores… Monet, Degas, Manet, yes, they’re painters!’"

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Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, Claude Monet, 1867

“‘It’s very odd,’ she added, fixing a rapt and searching gaze on some vague point in space where she could perceive her own thought, ‘it’s very odd, at one time I preferred Manet. Nowadays, I still admire Manet, naturally, but I think I perhaps prefer Monet even more. Oh, the cathedrals!’”

—Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (Penguin, pp. 211-212)

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Fuji from Goten-yama, at Shinagawa on the Tôkaidô (Tôkaidô Shinagawa Goten-yama no Fuji), Katsushika Hokusai, 1830-31
“There where, in August,…I had seen only leaves and as it were the emplacement of the apple trees, they were in full flower for as far as the eye could see, unimaginably luxuriant, their feet in the mud but wearing their ball-gowns, not taking any precautions so as not to spoil the most marvellous pink satin that you ever set eyes on, made to shine by the sunlight; the far-off horizon of the sea provided the apple trees with what was in effect the background from a Japanese print; if I raised my head to look at the sky between the flowers, they seemed to draw aside to display the depth of that paradise.”
—Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (Penguin, p. 182)
[Note: Proust doesn’t mention a specific Japanese print, but it’s hard to think of a more beautiful background than Hokusai.]

Fuji from Goten-yama, at Shinagawa on the Tôkaidô (Tôkaidô Shinagawa Goten-yama no Fuji), Katsushika Hokusai, 1830-31

“There where, in August,…I had seen only leaves and as it were the emplacement of the apple trees, they were in full flower for as far as the eye could see, unimaginably luxuriant, their feet in the mud but wearing their ball-gowns, not taking any precautions so as not to spoil the most marvellous pink satin that you ever set eyes on, made to shine by the sunlight; the far-off horizon of the sea provided the apple trees with what was in effect the background from a Japanese print; if I raised my head to look at the sky between the flowers, they seemed to draw aside to display the depth of that paradise.”

—Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (Penguin, p. 182)

[Note: Proust doesn’t mention a specific Japanese print, but it’s hard to think of a more beautiful background than Hokusai.]

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“My thoughts had become habitually fixed on the last days of my grandmother’s illness, on the sufferings that I was reliving, while increasing them by the element, even harder to endure than the actual suffering of others, added to them by the cruelty of our compassion; when we believe we are merely re-creating the pain of a beloved being, our compassion exaggerates it; yet perhaps it is the compassion that is right, rather than the awareness which those who are suffering have of their pain, from whom the sadness of their life is hidden, whereas compassion sees it, and despairs.”

—Marcel Proust, Sodom and Gomorrah (Penguin, pp. 176-177)

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