Octave Mirbeau

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Octave Mirbeau

Octave Mirbeau (1848–1917) was a French journalist, art critic, pamphleteer, novelist, and playwright.


  • “During Humankind’s long centuries societies have risen and fallen, all alike in this one fact which rules all history: the great are protected, the small are crushed.”
  • “Sheep run to the slaughterhouse, silent and hopeless, but at least sheep never vote for the butcher who kills them or the people who devour them. More beastly than any beast, more sheepish than any sheep, the voter names his own executioner and chooses his own devourer, and for this precious “right” a revolution was fought.” (Voters' strike)
  • Le plus grand danger de la bombe est dans l'explosion de bêtise qu'elle provoque.
    • Translation: The greatest danger of bombs is in the explosion of stupidity that they provoke.
    • Pour Jean Grave, Le Journal (19 Feb 1894)
  • “When one tears away the veils and shows them naked, people’s souls give off such a pungent smell of decay.” (Diary ot a Chambermaid)
  • “Each footstep taken in this society bristles with privileges, and is marked with a bloodstain; each turn of the government machinery grinds the tumbling, gasping flesh of the poor; and tears are running from everywhere in the impenetrable night of suffering. Facing these endless murders and continuous tortures, what's the meaning of society, this crumbling wall, this collapsing staircase?”
  • “Children, by nature, are keen, passionate and curious. What was referred to as laziness is often merely an awakening of sensitivity, a psychological inability to submit to certain absurd duties, and a natural result of the distorted, unbalanced education given to them. This laziness, which leads to an insuperable reluctance to learn, is, contrary to appearances, sometimes proof of intellectual superiority and a condemnation of the teacher.”
  • “Dead trees enclosed the bodies of men and women, violently distorted and subjected to hideous and shameful tortures.” (Garden of Tortures)
  • “Desire can attain the darkest human terror and give an actual ideal of hell and its horror.”
  • “Every intellectual effort is bent towards committing the most diversified violations upon the human being.”
  • “Honesty is negative and sterile; it is ignorant of the correct evaluation of appetite and ambition – the only powers through which you can found anything durable.”
  • “I feel something like a powerful oppression, like an immense fatigue after marching across fever-laden jungles, or by the shores of deadly lakes…And I am flooded by discouragement, so that it seems I shall never be able to escape from myself again.”
  • “I had, at that moment, another soul – an almost divine soul, a creative and sacrificial soul.”
  • “It is no exaggeration to say that the main aim of upper-class existence is to enjoy the filthiest of amusements.” (Garden of Tortures)
  • “It isn’t dying that’s sad. It’s living when you’re not happy.”
  • “Murder is born in love, and love attains the greatest intensity in murder.” (Garden of Tortures)
  • “Nature’s constantly screaming with all its shapes and scents: love each other! Love each other! Do as the flowers. There’s only love.” (Garden of Tortures)
  • “Schools are miniature universes. They encompass, on a child’s scale, the same kind of domination and repression as the most despotically organised societies. A similar sort of injustice and comparable baseness preside over their choice of idols to elevate and martyrs to torment.” (Sébastien Roch)
  • “There is a diabolical streak in me, a troublesome and inexplicable perversity.”
  • “There is something more mysteriously attractive than beauty: it is corruption.” (Garden of Tortures)
  • “The universe appears to me like an immense, inexorable torture-garden…Passions, greed, hatred, and lies; social institutions, justice, love, glory, heroism, and religion: these are its monstrous flowers and its hideous instruments of eternal human suffering.” (Garden of Tortures)
  • “The worship of money is the lowest of all human emotions, but it is shared not only by the bourgeoisie, but also by the great majority of us… Little people, humble people, even those who are practically penniless. And I, with all my indignation, all my passion for destruction, I, too, am not free of it. I who am oppressed by wealth, who realise it to be the source of all misery, all my vices and hatred, all the bitterest humiliations that I have to suffer, all my impossible dreams and all the endless torment of my existence, still, all the time, as soon as I find myself in the presence of a rich person, I cannot help looking up to him, as some exceptional and splendid being, a kind of marvelous divinity, and in spite of myself, stronger than either my will of my reason, I feel rising from the very depths of my being, a sort of incense of admiration for this wealthy creature, who is all too often as stupid as he is pitiless. Isn’t it crazy? And why... why?” (Diary ot a Chambermaid)
  • “To take something from a person and keep it for oneself: that is robbery. To take something from one person and then turn it over to another in exchange for as much money as you can get: that is business. Robbery is so much more stupid, since it is satisfied with a single, frequently dangerous profit; whereas in business it can be doubled without danger.” (Garden of Tortures)
  • “You’re obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn and know lack all foundation. It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretenses of your civilization which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers. That’s the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.” (Garden of Tortures)

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