“As readers, we remain in the nursery stage so long as we cannot distinguish between taste and judgment, so long, that is, as the only possible verdicts we can pass on a book are two: this I like; this I don’t like. For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five: I can see this is good and I like it; I can see this is good but I don’t like it; I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it; I can see that this is trash but I like it; I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.”

W.H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book

“Few people at this hour – and I refer to the time before the breaking out of this most grim war, which is coming to birth so strangely, as if it did not want to be born – few, I say, these days still enjoy that tranquility which permits one to choose the truth, to abstract one in reflection. Almost all the world is in tumult, is beside itself, and when man is beside himself he loses his most essential attribute: the possibility of meditating, or withdrawing into himself to come to terms with himself and define what it is he believes and what it is that he does not believe; what he truly esteems and what he truly detests. Being beside himself bemuses him, blinds him, forces him to act mechanically in a frenetic somnambulism.”

José Ortega y Gasset, The Self and the Other (1939)

“Perhaps my sense of reality is not very highly developed, perhaps I lack a sound and reassuring instinct for the solid facts of our earthly existence; I can’t always tell memories from dreams, and often mistake dreams, coming to life again in colours, smells, sudden associations, with the eerie secret certainty of a past life from which time and space divide me no differently and not better than a light sleep in the early hours.”

Annemarie Schwarzenbach, All the Roads Are Open. (trans. Isabel Fargo Cole)

“Words are not the things they name: they are the bridges we extend between things and ourselves. The poet is the conscience of the words, that is, the nostalgia for the actual reality of things. True, words were also things before they were the names of things. They were things in the myth of the innocent poet, that is, before language, the glimpsed paradisal accord. Innocent speech: silence in which nothing is said because everything is said, everything is saying itself. The poet’s language feeds upon that silence which is innocent speech.”

Octavio Paz, Unknown to Himself

“All of this is dream and phantasmagoria, and it matters little whether the dream be of ledger entries or of well-crafted prose. Does dreaming of princesses serve a better purpose than dreaming of the front door to the office? All that we know is our own impression, and all that we are is an exterior impression, a melodrama in which we, the self-aware actors, are also our own spectators, our own gods by permission of some department or other at City Hall.” p. 22

“What I write, bad as it is, may provide some hurt or sad soul a few moments of distraction from something worse. That’s enough for me, or it isn’t enough, but it serves some purpose, and so it is with all of life.” p. 22

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

“What is there to confess that’s worthwhile or useful? What has happened to us has happened to everyone or only to us; if to everyone, then it’s no novelty, and if only to us, then it won’t be understood. If I write what I feel it’s to reduce the fever of feeling. What I confess is unimportant because everything is unimportant.”

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, (trans. Richard Zenith). Penguin, 2002.