Updated: Jun 16
An epigraph is is a phrase or quotation that is set at the beginning of a document. As a writer, choosing a thought-provoking epigraph can act as a stimulus for your own writing, or instead, epitomize what you've already written. These are some of my favourite quotes from books I've read or referenced, that act as a lemon-slice into the minds of history's most interesting and eloquent people. Comment ones I've missed below.
"The song is ended, but the melody lingers on"
"I go to seek a Great Perhaps”
—Francois Rabelais’ last words
“If sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them?”
—David L. Rosenhan
"It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane."
— Philip K. Dick ['Valis']
“Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”
—William Faulkner ['The Sound and the Fury']
“She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.”
—Virginia Woolfe ['Mrs. Dalloway']
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away”
—Henry David Thoreau ['Walden']
"I know. I was there. I saw the great void in your soul, and you saw mine."
—Sebastian Faulks ['Birdsong']
“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt”
—Kurt Vonnegut ['Slaughterhouse-Five']
"Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other."
—John Steinbeck ['Of Mice and Men']
"No one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying."
—Richard Yates ['Revolutionary Road']
"The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves."
—V.S Naipaul ['In A Free State']
“Though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we can make him run”
—Andrew Marvell ['To His Coy Mistress']
“Think you're escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”
—James Joyce ['Ulysses']
"I let it go. It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home"
—Joanne Harris ['Five Quarters Of The Orange']
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald ['The Great Gatsby']
“We are made up of all the things that broke us
just to keep us alive”
—Anthony Anaxagorou ['This is not a poem']
"She had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it found her."
—Zora Neale Hurston ['Their Eyes Were Watching God']
‘The heart will break, but the broken will live on’
“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there”
— J.P. Hartley ['The Go-Between']
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars”
―Jack Kerouac ['On the Road']
“Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.”
― Milan Kundera ['The Unbearable Lightness of Being']
“You once told me that the human eye is god's loneliest creation. How so much of the world passes through the pupil and still it holds nothing. The eye, alone in its socket, doesn't even know there's another one, just like it, an inch away, just as hungry, as empty.” ― Ocean Vuong ['On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous']
“Perhaps it was freedom itself that choked her.”
—Patricia Highsmith ['The Price of Salt']
"A useless life is an early death"
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
—Herman Melville ['Moby Dick']
“I have drunk the wine of life at last”
“Now I wash the gum from your eyes, you must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and every moment of your life”
"how small a part of time they share
that are so wondrous sweet and fair"
—Edmund Waller ['Go Lovely Rose!']
‘Touch has a memory’
“The abstract kills, the concrete saves.”
― Sylvia Plath ['The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath']
"The word 'time' split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells, like shavings from a plane, without his making them, hard, white, imperishable words, and flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time; an immortal ode to Time."
—Virginia Woolf [‘Mrs Dalloway’]
"Because I could not stop for death — He kindly stopped for me."
“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”
―Cormac McCarthy ['The Road']
"Stars, too, were time travelers. How many of those ancient points of light were the last echoes of suns now dead? How many had been born but their light not yet come this far? If all the suns but ours collapsed tonight, how many lifetimes would it take us to realize we were alone?"
― Ransom Riggs ['Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children']
“She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.”
―Neil Gaiman ['Stardust']
”We changed again, and yet again, and it was now too late and too far to go back, and I went on. And the mists had all solemnly risen now, and the world lay spread before me.”
―Charles Dickens ['Great Expectations']
"What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from"
[cc: @dolce_masha on ig]