Romain Rolland

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I find war detestable but those who praise it without participating in it even more so.

Romain Rolland (January 29, 1866December 30, 1944) was a French writer who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915 after the publication of his major work, Jean-Christophe.

Quotes[edit]

Every man who is truly a man must learn to be alone in the midst of all others, and if need be against all others.
One makes mistakes; that is life. But it is never a mistake to have loved.
  • Theatre supposes lives that are poor and agitated, a people searching in dreams for a refuge from thought. If we were happier and freer we should not feel hungry for theatre. ... A people that is happy and free has need of festivities more than of theatres; it will always see in itself the finest spectacle.
    • Le Théâtre du peuple (1903)
  • There is only one necessary condition for the emergence of a new theatre, that the stage and auditorium should be open to the masses, should be able to contain a people and the actions of a people.
    • Le Théâtre du peuple (1903)
  • I find war detestable but those who praise it without participating in it even more so.
    • Inter arma Caritas, Journal de Genève (30 October 1914)
  • If there is one place on the face of the earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India. … For more than 30 centuries, the tree of vision, with all its thousand branches and their millions of twigs, has sprung from this torrid land, the burning womb of the Gods. It renews itself tirelessly showing no signs of decay.
  • The true Vedantic spirit does not start out with a system of preconceived ideas. It possesses absolute liberty and unrivalled courage among religions with regard to the facts to be observed and the diverse hypotheses it has laid down for their coordination. Never having been hampered by a priestly order, each man has been entirely free to search wherever he pleased for the spiritual explanation of the spectacle of the universe.
  • Skepticism, riddling the faith of yesterday, prepared the way for the faith of tomorrow.
    • As quoted in The Great Quotations (1960) by George Seldes, p. 864
  • I know at last what distinguishes man from animals; financial worries.
    • As quoted in The Anchor Book of French quotations, with English Translations (1963) by Norbert Guterman
  • Every man who is truly a man must learn to be alone in the midst of all others, and if need be against all others.
    • As quoted in A Book of French Quotations‎ (1963) by Norbert Guterman, p. 365
  • In politics, he has always been a republican with advanced Socialist sympathies, and internationalist at heart, and, as they said in the eighteenth century, a "citizen of the world." He has always fought social injustice. In art, he loves, above all, Beethoven, Shakespeare, and Goethe... Rembrandt is the painter dearest to him. But his chosen country is Italy.
    • On himself, as quoted in World Authors 1900-1950 (1996)
  • One makes mistakes; that is life. But it is never a mistake to have loved.
    • As quoted in On Relationships: A Book for Teenagers (1999) by Kimberly Kirberger

Jean-Christophe (1904 - 1912)[edit]

As translated by Gilbert Cannan (1913)
Why be angry because of what you cannot do? We all have to do what we can.
I, too, shall wake again.
It is the artist's business to create sunshine when the sun fails.
I am not all that is. I am Life fighting Nothingness.
I am the eternal Light; I am not an eternal destiny soaring above the fight. I am free Will which struggles eternally. Struggle and burn with Me.
In that sonorous soul everything took shape in sound. It sang of light. It sang of darkness, sang of life and death. … All was song. It was nothing but song.
  • Be reverent before the dawning day. Do not think of what will be in a year, or in ten years. Think of to-day. Leave your theories. All theories, you see, even those of virtue, are bad, foolish, mischievous. Do not abuse life. Live in to-day. Be reverent towards each day. Love it, respect it, do not sully it, do not hinder it from coming to flower. Love it even when it is gray and sad like to-day. Do not be anxious. See. It is winter now. Everything is asleep. The good earth will awake again. You have only to be good and patient like the earth. Be reverent. Wait. If you are good, all will go well. If you are not, if you are weak, if you do not succeed, well, you must be happy in that. No doubt it is the best you can do. So, then, why will? Why be angry because of what you cannot do? We all have to do what we can. . . . Als ich kann."
    • Gottfried to Jean-Christophe in "Youth" (1904) Part 3 : Ada
  • You are a vain fellow. You want to be a hero. That is why you do such silly things. A hero! ... I don't quite know what that is: but, you see, I imagine that a hero is a man who does what he can. The others do not do it.
    • Gottfried to Jean-Christophe in "Youth" (1904) Part 3 : Ada
    • Variant translation: A hero is one who does what he can. The others don't.
      • As quoted in A Book of French Quotations‎ (1963) by Norbert Guterman, p. 365
  • I, too, shall wake again.
    • Jean-Christophe to himself in "Youth" (1904) Part 3 : Ada
  • "There are some dead who are more alive than the living."
    "No, no! It would be more true to say that there are some who are more dead than the dead."
    "Maybe. In any case there are old things which are still young."
    "Then if they are still young we can find them for ourselves.... But I don't believe it. What has been good once never is good again."
    • Jean-Christophe: Revolt (1905), p. 395
  • All these young millionaires were anarchists, of course: when a man possesses everything it is the supreme luxury for him to deny society: for in that way he can evade his responsibilities
    • Jean-Christophe: Revolt (1905), p. 395
  • It is the artist's business to create sunshine when the sun fails.
    • "The Market-Place" (1908), Part I
  • To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of men. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any person were to refer to it, they would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime. That alone is the justification of all that men may suffer. It cries vengeance upon all the human race. If God exists and tolerates it, it cries vengeance upon God. If there exists a good God, then even the most humble of living things must be saved. If God is good only to the strong, if there is no justice for the weak and lowly, for the poor creatures who are offered up as sacrifice to humanity, then there is no such thing as goodness, no such thing as justice…
    Alas! The slaughter accomplished by man is so small a thing of itself in the carnage of the universe! The animals devour each other. The peaceful plants, the silent trees, are ferocious beasts to one another. The serenity of the forests is only a commonplace of easy rhetoric for the literary men who only know Nature through their books! ... In the forest hard by, a few yards away from the house, there were frightful struggles always toward. The murderous beeches flung themselves upon the pines with their lovely pinkish stems, hemmed in their slenderness with antique columns, and stifled them. They rushed down upon the oaks and smashed them, and made themselves crutches of them. The beeches were like Briareus with his hundred arms, ten trees in one tree! They dealt death all about them. And when, failing foes, they came together, they became entangled, piercing, cleaving, twining round each other like antediluvian monsters. Lower down, in the forest, the acacias had left the outskirts and plunged into the thick of it and, attacked the pinewoods, strangling and tearing up the roots of their foes, poisoning them with their secretions. It was a struggle to the death in which the victors at once took possession of the room and the spoils of the vanquished. Then the smaller monsters would finish the work of the great. Fungi, growing between the roots, would suck at the sick tree, and gradually empty it of its vitality. Black ants would grind exceeding small the rotting wood. Millions of invisible insects were gnawing, boring, reducing to dust what had once been life. . . . And the silence of the struggle! ... Oh! the peace of Nature, the tragic mask that covers the sorrowful and cruel face of Life!
    • Jean-Christophe : Journey's End : The New Dawn (1912)
  • Ce n'est pas la paix que je cherche, c'est la vie.
    • It is not peace that I seek, but life.
    • Jean-Christophe : Journey's End : The New Dawn (1912)
  • "Thou art come back to me, Thou art come back to me! O Thou, whom I had lost! . . . Why didst Thou abandon me?"
    "To fulfil My task, that thou didst abandon."
    "What task?"
    "My fight."
    "What need hast Thou to fight? Art Thou not master of all?"
    "I am not the master."
    "Art Thou not All that Is?"
    "I am not all that is. I am Life fighting Nothingness. I am not Nothingness, I am the Fire which burns in the Night. I am not the Night. I am the eternal Light; I am not an eternal destiny soaring above the fight. I am free Will which struggles eternally. Struggle and burn with Me."
    • Jean-Christophe : Journey's End : The New Dawn (1912)
  • "Thou art not alone, and thou dost not belong to thyself. Thou art one of My voices, thou art one of My arms. Speak and strike for Me. But if the arm be broken, or the voice be weary, then still I hold My ground: I fight with other voices, other arms than thine. Though thou art conquered, yet art thou of the army which is never vanquished. Remember that and thou wilt fight even unto death."
    "Lord, I have suffered much!"
    "Thinkest thou that I do not suffer also? For ages death has hunted Me and nothingness has lain in wait for Me. It is only by victory in the fight that I can make My way. The river of life is red with My blood."
    "Fighting, always fighting?"
    "We must always fight. God is a fighter, even He Himself. God is a conqueror. He is a devouring lion. Nothingness hems Him in and He hurls it down. And the rhythm of the fight is the supreme harmony. Such harmony is not for thy mortal ears. It is enough for thee to know that it exists. Do thy duty in peace and leave the rest to the Gods."
    • Jean-Christophe : Journey's End : The New Dawn (1912)
  • Christophe returned to the Divine conflict. . . . How his own fight, how all the conflicts of men were lost in that gigantic battle, wherein the suns rain down like flakes of snow tossing on the wind! . . . He had laid bare his soul. And, just as in those dreams in which one hovers in space, he felt that he was soaring above himself, he saw himself from above, in the general plan of the world; and the meaning of his efforts — the price of his suffering, were revealed to him at a glance. His struggles were a part of the great fight of the worlds. His overthrow was a momentary episode, immediately repaired. Just as he fought for all, so all fought for him. They shared his trials, he shared their glory.
    "Companions, enemies, walk over me, crush me, let me feel the cannons which shall win victory pass over my body! I do not think of the iron which cuts deep into my flesh, I do not think of the foot that tramples down my head, I think of my Avenger, the Master, the Leader of the countless army. My blood shall cement the victory of the future. ..."
  • God was not to him the impassive Creator, a Nero from his tower of brass watching the burning of the City to which he himself has set fire. God was fighting. God was suffering. Fighting and suffering with all who fight and for all who suffer. For God was Life, the drop of light fallen into the darkness, spreading out, reaching out, drinking up the night. But the night is limitless, and the Divine struggle will never cease: and none can know how it will end. It was a heroic symphony wherein the very discords clashed together and mingled and grew into a serene whole! Just as the beech-forest in silence furiously wages war, so Life carries war into the eternal peace.
    The wars and the peace rang echoing through Christophe. He was like a shell wherein the ocean roars. Epic shouts passed, and trumpet calls, and tempestuous sounds borne upon sovereign rhythms. For in that sonorous soul everything took shape in sound. It sang of light. It sang of darkness, sang of life and death. It sang for those who were victorious in battle. It sang for himself who was conquered and laid low. It sang. All was song. It was nothing but song.
    • Jean-Christophe : Journey's End : The New Dawn (1912)

Journey Within (1947)[edit]

Never do I hesitate to look squarely at the unexpected face that every passing hour unveils to us, and to sacrifice the false images of it formed in advance, however dear they may be.
  • Never do I hesitate to look squarely at the unexpected face that every passing hour unveils to us, and to sacrifice the false images of it formed in advance, however dear they may be. In me, the love of life in general predominates over love of my own life (that, indeed, would never have sufficed to bear me up). May life herself speak! However inadequate I may be in listening to her, and in repeating her words, I shall try to record them, even if they contradict my most secret desires. In all that I write, may her will, not mine, be done!
    • Invitation to the Journey
  • No one ever reads a book. He reads himself through books, either to discover or to control himself. And the most objective books are the most deceptive. The greatest book is not the one whose message engraves itself on the brain, as a telegraphic message engraves itself on the ticker-tape, but the one whose vital impact opens up other viewpoints, and from writer to reader spreads the fire that is fed by the various essences, until it becomes a vast conflagration leaping from forest to forest.
    • Ch. 2 : The Three Revelations

Quotes about Rolland[edit]

  • That I have been allowed to exchange a greeting with you will remain a happy memory to the end of my days.
    • Sigmund Freud, in a 1923 letter to Roland, as quoted in The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling : Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism (1999) by William B. Parsons, p. 23

External links[edit]

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