Best 54 of Elif Batuman quotes - MyQuotes

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Elif Batuman
By Anonym 16 Sep

Elif Batuman

It’s so hard to be sincere without sounding pretentious,’ she said. ‘I mean, what are you supposed to do if you really happen to feel like you’ve swallowed the universe? Not say so?

By Anonym 20 Sep

Elif Batuman

Why was "plain" a euphemism for "ugly," when the very hallmark of human beauty was its plainness, the symmetry and simplicity that always seemed so young and so innocent. It was impossible not to think that here beauty was one of the most important things about her - something having to do with who she really was.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

Everyone is used to speaking a slightly different "language" with their parents than with their peers, because spoken language changes every generation - like they say, the past is a foreign country - but I think this is intensified for children whose parents also grew up in a geographically foreign country.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Elif Batuman

When you invent something, you're drawing on reservoirs of knowledge that you already have. It's only when you're faithful to the truth that something can come to you from the outside.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

I do like the idea of the novel of repressed college students being a contemporary novel of courtship! I guess what I would say to that is, we tend to think of historical periods and historical mores as ending a lot more concretely than they do. Like, in an Austen novel, there are lots of reasons - cultural, moral, religious - why the characters don't have sex during courtship. Maybe, even though those reasons have kind of expired, historically, they're still around in some sense.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

I've been thinking a lot about why it was so important to me to do The Idiot as a novel, and not a memoir. One reason is the great love of novels that I keep droning on about. I've always loved reading novels. I've wanted to write novels since I was little. I started my first novel when I was seven.I don't have the same connection to memoir or nonfiction or essays. Writing nonfiction makes me feel a little bit as if I'm producing a product I don't consume - it's a really alienating feeling.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

If you're writing a book where you want to make a positive truth claim, then you should absolutely call it nonfiction or memoir. If you don't want to make that claim - if that's not what's important to you; if you're more interested in storytelling and interiority and interpersonal relationships than in objective, checkable facts about the world - then why wouldn't you call it a novel, and take advantage of what that gets you, of the extra freedom, of belonging to the tradition of the novel?

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

I thought clarity of communication was the most important thing in writing, and if you really cared about getting your idea across, you would say it in the most straightforward way possible. Later, in college and grad school, I came to realize that language is a technology like any other, and that it's always evolving - clarity of expression is always evolving.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Elif Batuman

In the rearview mirror I saw Ivan half running behind the car, and I felt despair and envy. Of course he couldn't love me, not when I lived through so many layers, when I was spooked by Montmartre, and wore a seat belt in order to steer a car out of a ditch.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

If you think about Don Quixote, Don Quixote is this guy who wants to live as if he was in a medieval chivalric romance, when actually he lives in sixteenth-century Spain, which is already going through secularization, industrialization, modernization. He goes out to kill a giant, and instead he collides with this huge windmill and injures himself and also damages the windmill. I think that's a metaphor for the collisions we all have over time, as our ideas of ourselves get out of synch with the historical moment.

By Anonym 17 Sep

Elif Batuman

Most people, the minute they meet you, were sizing you up for some competition for resources. It was as if everyone lived in fear of a shipwreck, where only so many people would fit on the lifeboat, and they were constantly trying to stake out their property and identify dispensable people – people they could get rid of.... Everyone is trying to reassure themselves: I'm not going to get kicked off the boat, they are. They're always separating people into two groups, allies and dispensable people... The number of people who want to understand what you're like instead of trying to figure out whether you get to stay on the boat - it's really limited.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Elif Batuman

I felt a great need to tell him how I was surrounded, overwhelmed, by things of unknown or dubious meaning, things that weren't commensurate to me in any way.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

Poetry is another space, like love, where we extend that extra credit to the writer.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

Love is a rare and valuable thing, and you don't get to choose its object. You just go around getting hung up on all the least convenient things-and if the only obstacle in your way is a little extra work, then that's the wonderful gift right there.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

I think any start has to be a false start because really there’s no way to start. You just have to force yourself to sit down and turn off the quality censor. And you have to keep the censor off, or you start second-guessing every other sentence. Sometimes the suspicion of a possible false start comes through, and you have to suppress it to keep writing. But it gets more persistent. And the moment you know it’s really a false start is when you start … it’s hard to put into words.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

One of my favorite literary theorists, Mikhail Bakhtin, wrote that the defining characteristic of the novel is its unprecedented level of "heteroglossia" - the way it brings together so many different registers of language. He doesn't mean national languages, but rather the sublanguages we all navigate between every day: high language, low language, everything. I think there's something really powerful about the idea of the novel as a space that can bring all these languages together - not just aggregate them, like the Internet is so good at doing, but bring them into a dialogue.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

Obviously there are many, many ways of being an outsider, but having immigrant parents is one of them. For one thing, it makes you a translator: there are all kinds of things that American parents know about life in America ,and about being a kid in America, that non-American parents don't know, and in many cases it falls on the kid to tell them, and also to field questions from Americans about their parents' native country.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

I am a great admirer of Henry Jeffreys and have been eagerly awaiting his booze and empire book for many years!

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

Humor is really important to me. All my favorite writers are writers I consider to be funny, including Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, even though that's not necessarily their rap.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

I've gotten a lot of comfort from the philosophy of the Roman Stoics. For me, one of the most powerful ideas of Stoicism is that you can't pick or choose in the world what you want to happen and what you don't want to happen, and that actually if you did get to choose, the version you would come up with would be unsociable, lame, and basically less beautiful than the truth.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

Part of flirting is that you tend to give each other a little extra slack to be obscure - to say things that are suggestive and nuanced, rather than clear and comprehensible, things you wouldn't put up with in an essay or something written by a stranger - and that can be so exciting.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

Nom de Plume uses the device of the pseudonym to unite the likes of Charlotte Bronte, Mark Twain, Fernando Pessoa, and Patricia Highsmith into a cohesive yet highly idiosyncratic literary history. Each page affords sparkling facts and valuable insights onto the manufacturing of books and reputations, the keeping and revealing of secrets, the vagaries of private life and public opinion, and the eternally mysterious, often tormented interface between life and literature.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Elif Batuman

I read Ivan's messages over and over, thinking about what they meant. I felt ashamed, but why? Why was it more honorable to reread and interpret a novel like Lost Illusions than to reread and interpret some email from Ivan? Was it because Ivan wasn't as good a writer as Balzac? (But I thought Ivan was a good writer.) Was it because Balzac's novels had been read and analyzed by hundreds of professors, so that reading and interpreting Balzac was like participating in a conversation with all these professors, and was therefore a higher and more meaningful activity than reading an email only I could see? But the fact that the email had been written specifically to me, in response to things I had said, made it literally a conversation, in the way that Balzac's novels—written for a general audience, ultimately in order to turn a profit for the printing industry—were not; and so wasn't what I was doing in a way more authentic, and more human?

By Anonym 15 Sep

Elif Batuman

There's an amazing line in Marcus Aurelius: "The healthy eye ought to see all visible things and not to say, I wish for green things; for this is the condition of a diseased eye." Maybe green is your favorite color - but if you saw everything as green, that wouldn't be a blessing, it would be an eye disease. By the same token, if there was no heartbreak, and everything happened exactly as you want - it would be a less beautiful and meaningful story than the actual story, where you're a part of a huge complicated mysterious whole.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

If I could start over today, I would choose literature again. If the answers exist in the world or in the universe, I still think that's where we're going to find them.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Elif Batuman

When you're reading a novel, I think the reason you care about how any given plot turns out is that you take it as a data point in the big story of how the world works. Does such-and-such a kind of guy get the girl in the end? Does adultery ever bring happiness? How do winners become winners?

By Anonym 15 Sep

Elif Batuman

Writing fiction lets you be a little more emotional and unguarded, a little freer. Writing fictional characters is also really different from writing about real people. In nonfiction, you can only say so much about the people you interact with. After all, they're actual people, their version of their story trumps yours. In a novel, you can build a character, using certain parts or impressions of someone you know, and guessing or inventing others, without having to worry that your guesses or memories or inventions are wrong.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

People are shaped by friendship as much as by romance.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

I think humor is a really important way of creating solidarity - like, through humor you can make people realize that certain situations, where they thought they were alone, are actually shared by everyone.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

I don't think anything can substitute long talks, and long talks are somehow never as easy to schedule again as they were in school, when most people - at least in my little socioeconomic corner of the world - live not with their families or sexual partners, but with same-sex friends. I really miss that from college. I never really thought at the time about how things would never be that way again.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

I think it's true that, as is often observed, the writer is always an outsider. A writer is someone who is telling stories about what's going on, which is something you can't do if you're totally caught up in the moment.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

It's really a trade-off: you're always having to decide whether you're going to say the more ambitious thing, and lose a little clarity - or are you going to say something really clearly, and sacrifice a little nuance? Get too obscure, and you sound like a pretentious asshole; go overboard with the clarity, and you sound like you're talking down to your audience, or like you yourself are a reductive simpleton.

By Anonym 20 Sep

Elif Batuman

While it's true that, as Tolstoy observed, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, and everyone on planet Earth, vale of tears that it is, is certainly entitled to the specificity of his or her suffering, one nonetheless likes to think that literature has the power to render comprehensible different kinds of unhappiness. If it can't do that, what's it good for?

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

I try really hard to cultivate the pure love of reading, to make time for it, because it would be really sad to still be a writer without remembering why, on some visceral, emotional level.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

Now that I'm almost forty, I look back at some of the decisions I made when I was younger - decisions that I thought of as courageous, or generous, or otherwise befitting a writer; befitting someone who had taken it as their life's goal to understand the human condition - and I wish I could go back in time and be like, "Hey, you don't actually have to do that - you're allowed to look out for yourself a little bit.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Elif Batuman

When a novelist manages to describe or evoke something you thought or felt, without realizing that other people also found themselves in the same situation and had the same feelings, it creates that same solidarity. Maybe it's better to think of humor not as a tool to express the solidarity, but a kind of by-product. Maybe the realization "I'm not on my own on this one" is always, or often, funny.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

As a grad student and later as a writer, I have found it hard to sustain the pure, almost erotic love of reading I had as a kid - you know, where you climb in bed and read for hours and hours, and the book itself is this charged magical object. Later, when writing becomes your job, it's tied up with ego and all kinds of worry, and it's not always easy to get to that state of pure escape.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

In the last volume of In Search of Lost Time, Proust compares himself to Scheherazade: he says he has finally understood the nature of the book he has to write, just at the moment when his advancing years and declining health have made him doubt that he's going to live long enough to write it. So he has to write against death like Scheherazade.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

In a way all writers are writing against death, because writing is an attempt to defy the passage of time, to refuse to let the past disappear and be forgotten, and to refuse to let the present become the past - to try to keep living another day, to try to talk your way into life, or seduce your way into it.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Elif Batuman

Everyone reacted differently to being spoken to in a language they didn't understand. Katya got quiet and scared. Ivan leaned forward with an amused expression. Grisha narrowed his eyes and nodded in a manner suggesting the dawn of comprehension. Boris, a bearded doctoral student, rifled guiltily through his notes like someone having a nightmare that he was already supposed to speak Russian.

By Anonym 20 Sep

Elif Batuman

When you think about all the infinitely many galaxies and combinations of DNA, and against all those odds you meet this person - it's a miracle...' 'Right,' I said. I couldn't imagine viewing Bill's presence on Earth as any kind of a miracle, but wasn't that itself the miracle - that love really was an obscure and unfathomable connection between individuals, and not an economic contest where everyone was matched up by how quantifiably lovable they are?

By Anonym 16 Sep

Elif Batuman

It was hard to decide on a literature course. Everything the professors said seemed to be somehow beside the point. You wanted to know why Anna had to die, and instead they told you that 19th century Russian landowners felt conflicted about whether they were really a part of Europe. The implication was that it was somehow naive to want to talk about anything interesting, or to think that you would ever know anything important.

By Anonym 18 Sep

Elif Batuman

On the train back, Svetlana told me about a Serbian movie director who had been friends with her father in Belgrade. The director's wife, an actress, had gone to Paris to make a movie with a young French director. The French director had died tragically, by falling off a bar-stool. "They say it might have been suicide," Svetlana said.

By Anonym 15 Sep

Elif Batuman

There is salvation - happiness and virtue - in beauty. I would define beauty in this context as a kind of richness, complexity, mystery, diversity, otherness, and unexpectedness - something that comes from the outside.

By Anonym 16 Sep

Elif Batuman

I realized that I would never have corrected somebody who said “you can feel the food.” That was how Owen would end up with students who said “savor,” while I would end up with students who said “papel iss blonk.

By Anonym 14 Sep

Elif Batuman

I think time just goes faster and faster. I'm saying this a few months away from my fortieth birthday. I don't know when and if one's identity ever does catch up with one's actual age. Personally I feel like I just got the hang of thirty-five.

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

In a lot of ways, being a writer is a lousy job - grueling, emotionally taxing, terrible hours, no health care - so if it wasn't about love, what would be the point?

By Anonym 16 Sep

Elif Batuman

Every morning I called Aeroflot to ask about my suitcase. "Oh, it's you," sighed the clerk. "Yes, I have your request right here. Address: Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy's house. When we find the suitcase we will send it to you. In the meantime, are you familiar with our Russian phrase *resignation of the soul*?

By Anonym 13 Sep

Elif Batuman

I didn't care about truth; I cared about beauty. It took me many years--it took the experience of lived time--to realize that they really are the same thing.

By Anonym 19 Sep

Elif Batuman

Those were cities with archives, university presses, libraries—cities where students went to learn from books, not from "life." And they were right, those students: I had seen life, and it hadn't added up to anything.