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William Somerset Maugham

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What has influenced my life more than any other single thing has been my stammer. Had I not stammered I would probably... have gone to Cambridge as my brothers did, perhaps have become a don and every now and then published a dreary book about French literature.
--
Newsweek, 23 May, 1960

 
William Somerset Maugham

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In all my life I never competed for fortune, for a woman, or for fame. I learned to write in total isolation. My first work was also my best, and the first thing published. I never belonged to a circle or clique. I did not know I was writing a book until it was written. When my first book was published there was no one near me, an acquaintance let alone a friend, to congratulate me. I have never savored triumph, never won a race.

 
Eric Hoffer
 

Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.

 
Jorge Luis Borges
 

The writer is an ordinary man, not a spokesman for the people, and that literature can only be the voice of one individual. Writing that becomes an ode to a country, the standard of a nation, the voice of a party... loses its nature—it is no longer literature. Writers do not set out to be published, but to know themselves. Although Kafka or Pessoa resorted to language, it was not in order to change the world. I, myself, believe in what I call cold literature: a literature of flight for one's life, a literature that is not utilitarian, but a spiritual self-preservation in order to avoid being stifled by society. I believe in a literature of the moment, for the living. You have to know how to use freedom. If you use it in exchange for something else, it vanishes.

 
Gao Xingjian
 

We can no longer expect the one big book, the single achievement, to be an author's claim to posterity's regard. We shall be more inclined to assess the stature of a novelist by his ability to create what the French call an oeuvre, to present fragments of an individual vision in book after book, to build, if not a War and Peace or Ulysses, at least a shelf.

 
Anthony Burgess
 

Literature that is not the breath of contemporary society, that dares not transmit the pains and fears of that society, that does not warn in time against threatening moral and social dangers — such literature does not deserve the name of literature; it is only a façade. Such literature loses the confidence of its own people, and its published works are used as wastepaper instead of being read.

 
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
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