Tag Archives: Jules Renard

Marginalia, no.304

The sun rises before I do, but I go to bed after it does: we are even.

~ Jules Renard, Journal

Morning people are content, but we night owls sometimes blame ourselves. I wonder, if I had to give up electric light and strain to read by candle in the dark, would I mend my ways?

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Marginalia, no.280

Yes, God exists, but he knows no more about it than we do.

~ Jules Renard, Journals

The best available answer for what is clearly something other than the best of all possible worlds? There are closets in Connecticut where Christmas gifts are hidden that will never surprise anyone.

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Marginalia, no.269

The white blackbird exists, but it is so white that it cannot be seen, and the black blackbird is only its shadow.

~ Jules Renard, Journals

Platonism is more than the instinct that things might be better. It’s the insistence that in fact they are better: it’s just that things at their best are invisible. This becomes a handy notion, allowing me to claim the superlative qualities of the ideal person I imagine myself to be, while still allowing me, when I fail in one respect or another, to blame my shadow.

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Marginalia, no.234

She had carried me, dead, in her heart for three kilometers.

~ Jules Renard, Journals

To bear news of a death (prematurely in Renard’s case) will convince anyone that words have mass and weight. I once learned of an acquaintance’s suicide before his girlfriend, a close friend of mine, knew about it. I understood that to tell her myself would mean the end of our relationship as it had existed. I told myself it was a friend’s duty to see that she didn’t hear it from a stranger. Which seems right. But it’s also true that, as a nineteen-year-old ravenous for anything savoring of adult life, I was secretly thrilled at the prospect of being the awful messenger. I carried his corpse for two hours before finally delivering it to her.

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Marginalia, no.228

A Person is he whose words or actions are considered, either as his own, or as representing the words or actions of an other man…whether Truly or by Fiction. When they are considered as his owne, then is he called a Naturall person: and when they are considered as representing the words or actions of an other, then he is a Feigned or Artificiall person.

~ Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

It may help us to understand the lives of certain novelists if we think of them as ‘feigned persons.’ To judge by their example, dissipation in chemical or sexual form must be a requirement for membership in the Cult of the Artist. General dishevelment, poor manners and complicated politics don’t hurt either. Flaubert cautions against affected bohemianism, recommending that an artist live like a bourgeois and save his energy for his work. Along similar lines, Jules Renard writes in an 1890 journal entry: “You can be a poet and still wear your hair short. You can be a poet and pay your rent. Even though you are a poet, you can sleep with your wife.”

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Marginalia, no.161

I always feel like saying to music: ‘It isn’t true! You lie!’

~ Jules Renard, Journal

My seven-year-old son tells me: ‘Esther brought her violin to school and played some Bach, but she pronounced it “batch,” and it was so beautiful I wanted to cry.’ Who was this Esther, I asked, his girlfriend? ‘I don’t want to dance with her by light of the moon or anything,’ he said, ‘but if we got married I could listen to her play “batch” all the time.’  …I wonder if there isn’t an exception, after all, to Neil Young’s golden saying that ‘only love can break your heart.’

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Marginalia, no.149

There are storytellers and writers.  You can tell any story you like; you cannot write whatever you like: you write only yourself.

~ Jules Renard, Journal

That’s the trouble.  Editing and revising the current draft of the novel, I find that I’ve succeeded remarkably in putting myself onto paper.  The problem is the self in question: sentimental, affected, distracted by baubles and trivialities that can interest no one else.  The story is itself, but the telling is too much me.  Is self-improvement possible?  Can I write myself into shape?

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