Joseph Brodsky Quotes

The real history of consciousness starts with one's first lie.
Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. (First published 1976). "Less Than One," sct. 1, Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986).
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What should I say about life? That's it's long and abhors transparence.
Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. May 24, 1980. Written on his 40th birthday.
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Tragedy, as you know, is always a fait accompli, whereas terror always has to do with anticipation, with man's recognition of his own negative potential—with his sense of what he is capable of.
Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. "On Grief and Reason," The New Yorker (September 26, 1994).
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There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born-U.S. poet, critic. At press conference, Washington, D.C., on acceptance of U.S. poet laureateship. Quoted in Independent on Sunday (London, May 19, 1991).
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After having exhausted all the arguments on behalf of evil, one utters the creed's dictums with nostalgia rather than with fervor.
Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born-U.S. poet, critic. (First published 1980). "The Power of the Elements," Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986).
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Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul.
Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. "The Power of the Elements," Less Than One: Selected Essays (first publ. 1980, repr. 1986).
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Every individual ought to know at least one poet from cover to cover: if not as a guide through the world, then as a yardstick for the language.
Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. (Essay written 1983). "To Please a Shadow," sct. 5, Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986). Brodsky recommended W.H. Auden as qualified on both counts.
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If a poet has any obligation toward society, it is to write well. Being in the minority, he has no other choice. Failing this duty, he sinks into oblivion. Society, on the other hand, has no obligation toward the poet. A majority by definition, society thinks of itself as having other options than reading verses, no matter how well written. Its failure to do so results in its sinking to that level of locution at which society falls easy prey to a demagogue or a tyrant. This is society's own equivalent of oblivion.
Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. (First published 1983). "To Please a Shadow," sect. 2, Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986).
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