Paul Valéry


Latent in every man is a venom of amazing

Latent in every man is a venom of amazing bitterness, a black resentment; something that curses and loathes life, a feeling of being trapped, of having trusted and been fooled, of being helpless prey to impotent rage, blind surrender, the victim of a savage, ruthless power that gives and takes away, enlists a man, drops him, promises and betrays, and -crowning injury- inflicts on him the humiliation of feeling sorry for himself.


I believed, rather more accurately, that a work

I believed, rather more accurately, that a work resolutely thought out and sought for in the hazards of the mind, systematically, and through a determined analysis of definite and previously prescribed conditions, whatever its value might be once it had been produced, did not leave the mind of its creator without having modified him, and forced him to recognize and in some way reorganize himself. I said to myself that it was not the accomplished work, and its appearance and effect in the world, that can fulfill and edify us; but only the way in which we have done it.


I am now going to make an admission. I confess, I

I am now going to make an admission. I confess, I agree, that all these good people who protested, who laughed, who did not perceive what we perceived, were in a quite legitimate position. Their opinion was quite in order. One must not be afraid to say that the kingdom of letters is only a province of the vast empire of entertainment. One picks up a book, one puts it aside; and even when one cannot put it down one very well understands that this interest is related to the facility of pleasure. That is to say that every effort of a creator of beauty or of fantasy should be bent, by the very essence of his work, on contriving for the public pleasure which demands no effort, or almost none. It is through the public that he should deduce what touches, moves, soothes, animates or enchants the public.There are however several publics; amongst whom it is not impossible to find some people who do not conceive of pleasure without pain, who do not like to enjoy themselves without paying, and who are not happy if their happiness is not in some part their own contrivance through which they wish to realize what it costs them.

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