Famous Literature Quotes Quotations

Famous Literature Quotes

4,842 views 99 items 9 votes 4 voters
A list of the best literature quotes and sayings, including the names of each speaker or author when available. This list is sorted by popularity, so only the most famous literature quotes are at the top. The authors of these historic literature quotes are displayed next to each quote, so if you see one you like be sure to check out other inspirational quotes from that same writer.

This list answers the questions, "What are the best quotes about literature?" and "What are inspirational literature quotes?"

This list includes notable literature quotes by various authors, writers, playwrights, speakers, politicians, athletes, poets, and more. Vote on your favorites so that the greatest literature quotes rise to the top, as the order of the list changes dynamically based on votes. Don't let your favorite literature sayings get to the bottom of the list.

List Criteria: Must be a famous or well-known quote. If a quote is cut off you can hover over the text to see the full quote.

< >
  • the list
  • comments
  • </> embed
Rerank This List
View as a
Rank
loading your
votes…
 
Name
  1. 1
    Up 0
    Down 0

    If the most significant characteristic of man is the complex of biological needs he shares with all members of his species, then the best lives for the writer to observe are those in which the role of natural necessity is clearest, namely, the lives of the very poor.

    W. H. Auden More
  2. 2
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literary imagination is an aesthetic object offered by a writer to a lover of books.

    Gaston Bachelard More
  3. 3
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literature is without proofs. By which it must be understood that it cannot prove, not only what it says, but even that it is worth the trouble of saying it.

    Roland Barthes More
  4. 4
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.

    Jorge Luis Borges More
  5. 5
    Up 0
    Down 0

    The struggle of literature is in fact a struggle to escape from the confines of language; it stretches out from the utmost limits of what can be said; what stirs literature is the call and attraction of what is not in the dictionary.

    Italo Calvino More
  6. 6
    Up 0
    Down 0

    When politicians and politically minded people pay too much attention to literature, it is a bad sign -- a bad sign mostly for literature. But it is also a bad sign when they don't want to hear the word mentioned.

    Italo Calvino More
  7. 7
    Up 0
    Down 0

    There is a great discovery still to be made in literature, that of paying literary men by the quantity they do not write.

    Thomas Carlyle More
  8. 8
    Up 0
    Down 0

    When a book, any sort of book, reaches a certain intensity of artistic performance it becomes literature. That intensity may be a matter of style, situation, character, emotional tone, or idea, or half a dozen other things. It may also be a perfection of control over the movement of a story similar to the control a great pitcher has over the ball.

    Raymond Chandler More
  9. 9
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Speak of the moderns without contempt, and of the ancients without idolatry.

  10. 10
    Up 0
    Down 0

    The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order.

    Jean Cocteau More
  11. 11
    Up 0
    Down 0

    One learns little more about a man from his feats of literary memory than from the feats of his alimentary canal.

    Frank Moore Colby More
  12. 12
    Up 0
    Down 0

    When we read of human beings behaving in certain ways, with the approval of the author, who gives his benediction to this behavior by his attitude towards the result of the behavior arranged by himself, we can be influenced towards behaving in the same way.

    T. S. Eliot More
  13. 13
    Up 0
    Down 0

    People do not deserve to have good writings; they are so pleased with the bad.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson More
  14. 14
    Up 0
    Down 0

    If you look at history you'll find that no state has been so plagued by its rulers as when power has fallen into the hands of some dabbler in philosophy or literary addict.

    Desiderius Erasmus More
  15. 15
    Up 0
    Down 0

    The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn't have needed anyone since.

    William Faulkner More
  16. 16
    Up 1
    Down 0

    In our day the conventional element in literature is elaborately disguised by a law of copyright pretending that every work of art is an invention distinctive enough to be patented.

    Northrop Frye More
  17. 17
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason.

    André Gide More
  18. 18
    Up 1
    Down 0
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe More
  19. 19
    Up 0
    Down 0

    One of the proud joys of the man of letters --if that man of letters is an artist is to feel within himself the power to immortalize at will anything he chooses to immortalize. Insignificant though he may be, he is conscious of possessing a creative divinity. God creates lives; the man of imagination creates fictional lives which may make a profound and as it were more living impression on the world's memory.

  20. 20
    Up 0
    Down 0

    It is the story-teller's task to elicit sympathy and a measure of understanding for those who lie outside the boundaries of State approval.

    Graham Greene More
  21. 21
    Up 0
    Down 0

    A people's literature is the great textbook for real knowledge of them. The writings of the day show the quality of the people as no historical reconstruction can.

    Edith Hamilton More
  22. 22
    Up 0
    Down 0

    The attempt to devote oneself to literature alone is a most deceptive thing, and often, paradoxically, it is literature that suffers for it.

    Václav Havel More
  23. 23
    Up 0
    Down 0

    I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions.

    Václav Havel More
  24. 24
    Up 0
    Down 0

    The only sensible ends of literature are, first, the pleasurable toil of writing; second, the gratification of one's family and friends; and lastly, the solid cash.

    Nathaniel Hawthorne More
  25. 25
    Up 0
    Down 0

    It is a good lesson --though it may often be a hard one --for a man who has dreamed of literary fame, and of making for himself a rank among the world's dignitaries by such means, to step aside out of the narrow circle in which his claims are recognized, and to find how utterly devoid of all significance, beyond that circle, is all that he achieves, and all he aims at.

    Nathaniel Hawthorne More
  26. 26
    Up 0
    Down 0

    How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

    Ernest Hemingway More
  27. 27
    Up 0
    Down 0

    All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.

    Ernest Hemingway More
  28. 28
    Up 0
    Down 0

    All you can be sure about in a political-minded writer is that if his work should last you will have to skip the politics when you read it. Many of the so-called politically enlisted writers change their politics frequently . Perhaps it can be respected as a form of the pursuit of happiness.

    Ernest Hemingway More
  29. 29
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Now a writer can make himself a nice career while he is alive by espousing a political cause, working for it, making a profession of believing in it, and if it wins he will be very well placed. All politics is a matter of working hard without reward, or with a living wage for a time, in the hope of booty later. A man can be a Fascist or a Communist and if his outfit gets in he can get to be an ambassador or have a million copies of his books printed by the Government or any of the other rewards the boys dream about.

    Ernest Hemingway More
  30. 30
    Up 0
    Down 0

    The hardest thing to do is to write straight honest prose on human beings. First you have to know the subject; then you have to know how to write. Both take a lifetime to learn, and anybody is cheating who takes politics as a way out. All the outs are too easy, and the thing itself is too hard to do.

    Ernest Hemingway More
  31. 31
    Up 0
    Down 0

    There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention.

    Ernest Hemingway More
  32. 32
    Up 2
    Down 0

    The self-styled intellectual who is impotent with pen and ink hungers to write history with sword and blood.

    Eric Hoffer More
  33. 33
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literature flourishes best when it is half trade and half an art.

    William Ralph Inge More
  34. 34
    Up 0
    Down 0

    It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.

    Henry James More
  35. 35
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book-friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.

    Helen Keller More
  36. 36
    Up 0
    Down 0

    For a novelist, a given historic situation is an anthropologic laboratory in which he explores his basic question: What is human existence?

    Milan Kundera More
  37. 37
    Up 0
    Down 0

    The present era grabs everything that was ever written in order to transform it into films, TV programs; or cartoons. What is essential in a novel is precisely what can only be expressed in a novel, and so every adaptation contains nothing but the non-essential. If a person is still crazy enough to write novels nowadays and wants to protect them, he has to write them in such a way that they cannot be adapted, in other words, in such a way that they cannot be retold.

    Milan Kundera More
  38. 38
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Oh literature, oh the glorious Art, how it preys upon the marrow in our bones. It scoops the stuffing out of us, and chucks us aside. Alas!

    D. H. Lawrence More
  39. 39
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literature is a toil and a snare, a curse that bites deep.

    D. H. Lawrence More
  40. 40
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literature must become party literature. Down with unpartisan litterateurs! Down with the superman of literature! Literature must become a part of the general cause of the proletariat.

    Vladimir Lenin More
  41. 41
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literature is analysis after the event.

    Doris Lessing More
  42. 42
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead.

    Sinclair Lewis More
  43. 43
    Up 0
    Down 0

    A good metaphor is something even the police should keep an eye on.

    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg More
  44. 44
    Up 0
    Down 0

    With a pen in my hand I have successfully stormed bulwarks from which others armed with sword and excommunication have been repulsed.

    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg More
  45. 45
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literature... is condemned (or privileged) to be forever the most rigorous and, consequently, the most reliable of terms in which man names and transforms himself.

    Paul de Man More
  46. 46
    Up 0
    Down 0

    Literature exists at the same time in the modes of error and truth; it both betrays and obeys its own mode of being.

    Paul de Man More
  47. 47
    Up 0
    Down 0

    In literature, as in love, we are astonished at the choice made by other people.

    André Maurois More
  48. 48
    Up 4
    Down 0

    For whatever is truly wondrous and fearful in man, never yet was put into words or books.

    Herman Melville More
  49. 49
    Up 0
    Down 0

    That is a very good question. I don't know the answer. But can you tell me the name of a classical Greek shoemaker?

    Arthur Miller More
  50. 50
    Up 0
    Down 0

    What is not in the open street is false, derived, that is to say, literature.

    Henry Miller More
  51. +Add New Item

Is this list missing something?
BE THE FIRST TO ADD AN ITEM

items 1 - 50 of 99

think you can do better?

rerank this list
why?

got a blog or website?

embed this list
why?

    more popular lists