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Top 250 Philip Roth Quotes (2023 Update)
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Philip Roth Quote: “True, he had chosen to live alone, but not unbearably alone. The worst of being unbearably alone was that you had to bear it – either that or you were sunk. You had to work hard to prevent your mind from sabotaging you by its looking hungrily back at the superabundant past.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Nessuno dei pezzi di musica seria che aveva ascoltato per tutta la vita adulta gli dava la stessa emozione che ora provava ascoltando il vecchio swing: -Quel po’ di stoicismo che ho dentro se ne va, e il desiderio di non morire, di non morire mai, si fa quasi insopportabile.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Never in his life had occasion to ask himself, “Why are things the way they are?” Why should he bother, when the way they were was always perfect? Why are things the way they are? The question to which there is no answer, and up till then he was so blessed he didn’t even know the question existed.”
Philip Roth Quote: “But the danger with hatred is, once you start in on it, you get a hundred times more than you bargained for. Once you start, you can’t stop. I don’t know anything harder to control than hating. Easier to kick drinking than to master hate. And that is saying something.”
Philip Roth Quote: “I’m the only one who gives her a whole can of tuna for lunch, and I’m not talking dreck, either. I’m talking Chicken of the Sea, Alex.”
Philip Roth Quote: “I know the kind of man I am and the kind of writer. I have my own kind of bravery, and please, let’s leave it at that.”
Philip Roth Quote: “The tragedy of the man not set up for tragedy – that is every man’s tragedy.”
Philip Roth Quote: “You’ve got a good girl this time. Don’t screw it up. Don’t let her go.”
Philip Roth Quote: “If he had another brother he would call him. But for a brother he has only Jerry and Jerry has only him. For a daughter he has only Merry. For a father she has only him. There is no way around any of this.”
Philip Roth Quote: “It is Jerry’s theory that the Swede is nice, that is to say passive, that is to say trying always to do the right thing, a socially controlled character who doesn’t burst out, doesn’t yield to rage ever. Will not have the angry quality as his liability, so doesn’t get it as an asset either. According to this theory, it’s the no-rage that kills him in the end. Whereas aggression is cleansing or curing.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Clothes are a masquerade anyway. When you go outside and see everyone in clothes, then you know for sure that nobody has a clue to why he was born and that, aware of it or not, people are perpetually performing in a dream.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Nothing that befalls anyone is too senseless to have happened.”
Philip Roth Quote: “But this had happened to me more than once in my life: I had refused to allow convention to determine my conduct, only to learn, after I’d gone my own way, that my bedrock feelings were sometimes more conventional than my sense of unswerving moral imperative.”
Philip Roth Quote: “And how long will the American people stand for this treachery perpetrated by their elected president? How long will Americans remain asleep while their cherished Constitution is torn to shreds.”
Philip Roth Quote: “You don’t have to work in a mental hospital to know about husbands and wives.”
Philip Roth Quote: “The vulnerability in that smile was the surprising element- the vulnerability of our record-breaking muscleman faced with all the crudeness it takes to stay alive. The smile’s refusal to recognize, let alone to sanction in himself, the savage obstinacy that seven decades of surviving requires of a man.”
Philip Roth Quote: “No one gets through unmarked by brooding, grief, confusion, and loss. Even those who had it all as kids sooner or later get the average share of misery, if not sometimes more.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Because you happen to be a writer doesn’t mean you have to deny yourself the ordinary human pleasure of being praised and applauded.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Where was the Jew in him? You couldn’t find it and yet you knew it was there. Where was the irrationality in him? Where was the crybaby in him? Where were the wayward temptations? No guile. No artifice. No mischief. All that he had eliminated to achieve his perfection. No striving, no ambivalence, no doubleness- just the style, the natural physical refinement of a star.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Madeline displayed the bright sadder-but-wiser outlook of an alert first grader who’d discovered the alphabet in a school where Ecclesiastes is the primer – life is futility, a deeply terrible experience, but the really serious thing is reading.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Everything you say says either more than you wanted it to say or less than you wanted it to say; and everything you do does either more than you wanted it to do or less than you wanted it to do. What you said and did made a difference, all right, but not the difference you intended.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Simple is never that simple.”
Philip Roth Quote: “It is not our high purposes alone that make us moving creatures, but our humble needs and cravings.”
Philip Roth Quote: “I’m so drunk my head doesn’t even need my neck.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Here in America either it’s Faunia Farley or it’s Monica Lewinsky! The luxury of these lives disquieted so by the inappropriate comportment of Clinton and Silk!”
Philip Roth Quote: “How much time could you spend staring out the ocean, even if it was the ocean you’d loved since you were a boy?”
Philip Roth Quote: “There is his religion of art, my young successor: rejecting life! Not living is what he makes his beautiful fiction out of! And you will now be the person he is not living with!”
Philip Roth Quote: “Remorse, predictably, was the form taken by her distress, the merciless whipping that is self-condemnation, as if in times as bizarre as these there were a right way and a wrong way that would have been clear to somebody else, as if in confronting such predicaments the hand of stupidity is ever far from guiding anyone.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Anger is to make you effective. That’s its survival function. That’s why it’s given to you. If it makes you ineffective, drop it like a hot potato.”
Philip Roth Quote: “That was how he got there, seeking asylum, hounded – the forlorn reason for a straight arrow so assertively uxorious, so intensely and spotlessly monogamous, hurling himself at such an extraordinary moment into a situation he would have thought he hated, the shameful fiasco of being untrue.”
Philip Roth Quote: “There is no protest to be lodged against loneliness – not all the bombing campaigns in history have made a dent in it. The most lethal of manmade explosives can’t touch it. Stand in awe not of Communism, my idiot child, but of ordinary, everyday loneliness.”
Philip Roth Quote: “There had to be forces outside. The prayer went, “Lead me not in temptation.” If people were not led by others, why was the famous prayer that it was?”
Philip Roth Quote: “Anyone with brains understands that he is destined to lead a stupid life because there is no other kind.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Why, emotionally, is a man of his type reciprocally connected to a woman of her type? The usual reason: their flaws fit.”
Philip Roth Quote: “One has periods of ghastliness. And then long periods of sort of quiet and love.”
Philip Roth Quote: “I was gushing and I knew it. I surprised myself with my eagerness to please, felt myself saying too much, explaining too much, overinvolved and overexcited in the way you are when you’re a kid and you think you’ve found a soul mate in the new boy down the street and you feel yourself drawn by the force of the courtship and so act as you don’t normally do and a lot more openly than you may even want to.”
Philip Roth Quote: “The loveliest fairy tale of childhood is that everything happens in order.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Simple was never that simple. Still, the self-questioning did take some time to reach him. And if there’s anything worse than self-questioning coming too early in life, it’s self-questioning coming too late.”
Philip Roth Quote: “What was astonishing to him was how people seemed to run out of their own being, run out of whatever the stuff was that made them who they were and, drained of themselves, turn into the sort of people they would once have felt sorry for.”
Philip Roth Quote: “No one with seven books in New York City settles for one piece of ass. That’s what you get for a couplet.”
Philip Roth Quote: “When, with a smile, she let the dirt slip slowly across her curled palm and out the side of her hand onto the coffin, the gesture looked like the prelude to a carnal act. Clearly this was a man to whom she’d once given much thought.”
Philip Roth Quote: “I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning. And if I knock off from this routine for as long as a day, I’m frantic with boredom and a sense of waste.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Look, everything the Communists say about capitalism is true, and everything the capitalists say about Communism is true. The difference is, our system works because it’s based on the truth about people’s selfishness, and theirs doesn’t because it’s based on a fairy tale about people’s brotherhood. It’s such a crazy fairy tale they’ve got to take people and put them in Siberia in order to get them to believe it.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Without an old country link and a strangling church like the Italians, or the Irish, or the Poles, without generations of the American forebears to bind you to American life, or blind you by your loyalties to its deformities, you could read whatever you wanted and write however and whatever you pleased. Alienated? Just another way to say ‘set free.’ A Jew set free from Jews – yet only by steadily maintaining self-consciousness as a Jew. That was the thrilling paradoxical kicker.”
Philip Roth Quote: “I’m not in the business. ‘Liking people’ is often just another racket.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Is that what eternity is for, to muck over a lifetime’s minutiae? Who could have imagined that one would have forever to remember each moment of life down to its tiniest component?”
Philip Roth Quote: “There is truth and then again there is truth. For all that the world is full of people who go around believing they’ve got you or your neighbor figured out, there really is no bottom to what is not known. The truth about us is endless. As are the lies.”
Philip Roth Quote: “Sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not. Any biography is chance, and, beginning at conception, chance – the tyranny of contingency – is everything. Chance is what I believed Mr. Cantor meant when he was decrying what he called God.”
Philip Roth Quote: “There is no life without patience.”
Philip Roth Quote: “He was trying hard to continue to exist as himself despite the unlikeliness of everything.”
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