D : Five Hundred Maxims, Aphorisms, and Reflections

My latest project (Summer-Fall 2016) has been a collection of original aphorisms, 500 in number, in the tradition and spirit of La Rochefoucauld. It is currently looking for a publisher. In the interim I provide here a selection of 15 of them, taken more or less at random, since it is much easier to do that than it is to explain the project at length!

Also included in the book is a brisk but bracing survey of the aphoristic tradition, covering La Rochefoucauld, Vauvenargues, La Bruyère, Chamfort, Joubert, Lichtenberg, Goethe, Nietzsche, Karl Kraus, Cioran, Don Colacho, and Ambrose Bierce.


The summit of style is to kill with a word.


Flattery is the only reliable tyrannicide.


In health, the body obeys the will; in sickness, the will obeys the body.


Without law, power cannot sleep.


Under a tyrant at least no one believes the newspapers.


The unhappy see themselves through the eyes of the bad, the happy through the eyes of the good.


Optimists go to war; pessimists make and keep the peace.


To speak for one’s nation is to fancy oneself a king.


To love others, we must first understand how they resemble us, because we have no other measure of esteem.


Good poetry says half of what it means; bad poetry means half of what it says.


Without moderation, self-denial is self-indulgence.


God’s punishment of human folly is not to send a plague.


The notion of art for the sake of art is too close to the notion of life for the sake of life.


Historians are hopelessly prejudiced in favour of historical significance.


We enjoy talking about ourselves chiefly because it requires no effort.