Quotes and Words

This is a collection of quotes and images from books, articles, movies, or something I have heard and found thought-provoking, inspirational or aspirational. Quotes and words are not separated by topic because—contrary to what some would have you believe—life is not lived by topics. New words on top (to translate to English or other languages, I recommend DeepL).


The world of revolution was at first a world of youth. All the branches of the revolutionary movement, and not only those socialists who one day would call themselves Communists, lived by a different time scale than that of ordinary mortals. In joining the conspiracy at the age of nineteen or twenty, Soso Djugashvili was far from being young in the sense that revolution understood the word. [...]. In one's late teens and early twenties one was expected to be a mature revolutionary, a veteran of imprisonment or exile. In his middle twenties the revolutionary was deemed ripe for leadership, for central committees, and, if a Marxist, for authorship of a theoretical treatise or at least some articles. The thirties were old age.
[...] Unlike the previous generation of revolutionaries who were ready to risk the gallows so that their sacrifice might stir up the people, the Russian Marxist at the turn of the century entered his struggle with the firm conviction that it was the Tsar's government, and eventually capitalism, that faced unequal odds.

From "Stalin the man and his era", by Adam Ulam


"Tutti restano bambini, segnatamente, al cospetto dell'autorità costituita. Insomma, di fronte a me che rappresento il potere, la legge, tutte le leggi, conosciute e sconosciute, l'indiziato torna bambino. Ed io divento il padre, il modello inattaccabile, la mia faccia diventa quella di Dio, della coscienza. E questa è la base dell’autorità."

["Everyone remains a child, specifically, in the presence of established authority. In short, before me who represents power, law, all laws, known and unknown, the suspect becomes a child again. And I become the father, the irreproachable model, my face becomes that of God, of conscience. And this is the basis of authority."]

From the movie "Investigazione su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto" [Investigation on a Citizen above suspicion", by Elio Petri


“You see, Tangier isn’t just a harbour with boats in it,’ he explained. ‘It’s not the collection of bars and apartment houses and villas you see straggling up the hillside. Tangier is an atmosphere. The externals change. The atmosphere doesn’t.”

From "The Wrong People", by Robin Maugham


In carcere si diventa anche intelligenti, e le parole hanno molto valore, quelle dette e quelle ascoltate; nella vita libera, incensurata, c’era sciupio e svalutazione della parola e dell’ascoltare le parole: si continuava a parlare senza sapere bene quello che si diceva, e si ascoltava senza capire.

[In prison you also become intelligent, and words have a lot of value, those said and those heard; in free life, with no criminal record, there was a squandering and devaluation of words and of listening to words: people kept talking without really knowing what they were saying, and they listened without understanding.]

From "Venere Privata", by Giorgio Scerbanenco.


Spesso gli aeroplani volavano su di noi, ma non si riusciva mai a distinguere se fossero nostri o nemici. Un giorno uno passò bassissimo girando più volte sopra al paese. Per la sua forma mai vista si pensò fosse nemico e, prima da un vicino accampamento di cavalleria e poi dal nostro accantonamento, si cominciò a sparare. Consumammo frenetici tutte le cartucce di dotazione, fino ad arroventare la canna. Chi sparava dalle finestre, chi inginocchiato per terra con il fucile contro il cielo, chi tenendosi nascosto sotto agli alberi. Il cuciniere strillava come un ossesso, perché alcuni si erano messi a sparare dal tetto della cucina dove si trovava intento a fare le razioni di carne. In paese gli ufficiali sparavano con la pistola; poi si seppe che l'aeroplano era nostro.

[Airplanes often flew over us, but we could never tell if they were ours or the enemy's. One day one passed very low and circled over the village several times. Because of its shape we had never seen before, we thought it was an enemy plane and, first from a nearby cavalry camp and then from our camp, we started to shoot. We frantically used up all the cartridges we had, until the barrel was red-hot. Some fired from the windows, others knelt on the ground with their rifles against the sky, others hid under the trees. The cook was screaming like a madman, because some people had started shooting from the roof of the kitchen where he was busy making meat rations. In the village the officers were firing their pistols; then it became known that the airplane was ours.]

From "Giorni di Guerra", by Giovanni Comisso


Viveva dentro le cose con indomabile curiosità e perpetua disponibilità, abbandonandosi a quello che Dostoevskij chiama “il fiume della vita”, nella serena consapevolezza che ti porta sempre da qualche parte.

[He lived inside things with indomitable curiosity and perpetual openness, surrendering himself to what Dostoevsky calls "the river of life," in the serene awareness that it always takes you somewhere.]

Tullio Kezich writing about Federico Fellini in "Federico"


Di Toeplitz scrive: "Ha conosciuto la guerra tutta intera. Ha traversato la tormenta con pacatezza, con grazia, silenziosamente; affrontando la morte senza declamazioni e senza spavalderie, come conviene alle persone educate. Ha scritto versi, assai belli. I Pellegrini di San Brandano contengono pagine intensamente liriche. “Non temo il fuoco” il suo motto.

[Of Toeplitz he writes: "He has known the whole war. He has crossed the storm with calmness, with grace, silently; facing death without rants and without bravado, as is proper for educated people. He wrote some very beautiful verses. The Pilgrims of San Brandano contain intensely lyrical pages. "I do not fear fire" his motto.]


From “Almeno non ignobili. Esteti, aristocratici ed eversori alla prova della grande guerra e dell'impresa di Fiume”, by Antonio M. Calderazzi.

I ricordi di ognuno, del resto, si trasformano, sbiadiscono e si frantumano, si ridisegnano e si combinano quando si scontrano con il vissuto immediato a seconda delle filosofie che si abbracciano, delle esperienze ed emozioni che hanno scolpito il proprio modello interpretativo dell’esistenza. Così ciò che oggi ci colpisce, domani può nascondersi, magari sopraffatto da altri dati registrati dall’immaginazione, per poi ricomparire inatteso fra un giorno, un mese, fra un anno. Il tempo della fantasia, insomma, è sempre un altro, sfugge alle cronologie, si affida al disordine.

[The memories of each of us, after all, are transformed, fade and shatter, are redrawn and combined when they collide with the immediate experience according to the philosophies that are embraced, the experiences and emotions that have carved their own interpretative model of existence. So what strikes us today, tomorrow may hide, perhaps overwhelmed by other data recorded by the imagination, and then reappear unexpectedly in a day, a month, a year. The time of imagination, in short, is always another, it eludes chronologies, it relies on disorder]

From "Per Scrivere un Film", by Ugo Pirro.

Un’idea cinematografica non è sempre nuova e geniale, può essere vecchia e produrre novità o viceversa. Non ha, cioè, ancora un destino fissato nel momento in cui insorge.
Ero dunque a Roma» continua Antonioni «fermo con la macchina sul Lungotevere che fiancheggia la zona dove sorge il Villaggio Olimpico. Cercavo qualcosa che avevo perduto (io passo gran parte del mio tempo a cercare). Alzando gli occhi vidi un uomo uscire dall’edificio dove si gioca il bowling. Il suo modo di raggiungere la macchina, di aspettare prima di aprire lo sportello, di salirvi, erano insoliti. E così lo seguii. Quello che segue è il racconto del mio fantasticare su di lui, cioè un soggetto cinematografico.

[A cinematic idea is not always new and brilliant, it can be old and produce novelty or vice versa. In other words, it does not yet have a fixed destiny at the moment it arises.
So I was in Rome," continues Antonioni, "and my car stopped on the Lungotevere that runs alongside the area where the Olympic Village is located. I was looking for something I had lost (I spend most of my time looking). Looking up I saw a man coming out of the building where the bowling alley is located. His way of getting to the car, of waiting before opening the door, of getting in, were unusual. And so I followed him. What follows is the story of my fantasizing about him, that is, a film subject.]

From "Per Scrivere un Film", by Ugo Pirro.

I always told our agents, “Make your clients think they’re your friends—but remember that they’re not.” -From "Who Is Michael Ovitz?", by Michael Ovitz.

It is significant and characteristic of the times that his death did not appear to have had any markedly depressing effect on the crew. That is not to say that life was cheap in those days, it was just that death was received with a stoical acceptance of a degree unknown in our Western cultures of today. - From "Captain Cook", by Alistair MacLean.

I'm sorry about your dad. It was his fate. Joss rules us all in the end. - From "Tai-Pan" (the movie, this part is phrased differently in the novel).

I repeated to myself, "I will make it," and I added new phrases, "Never give up, keep going west," and "Don't take any assistance." Gradually I felt my doubts and fears disappearing, yielding instead to a really positive optimism and confidence. - From "Alone at Sea", by Hannes Lindeman.

True to his word, in a little restaurant at the foot of the slope Sailer talks about racing, what it was to be a great racer, what it takes to win. There are things you can learn from the coaches and things you can’t learn. “Energy,” he says. “Will.” - From "Don't Save Anything", by James Salter.

If you don’t set a baseline standard for what you’ll accept in your life, you’ll find it’s easy to slip into behaviors and attitudes or a quality of life that’s far below what you deserve. - From "Awaken the Giant Within", by Anthony Robbins.

‘The key quality for a winning mindset,’ he says during a break in preparations for his fight against Marcos Maidana in September 2014, ‘is believing in your ability to win. From a young professional in boxing I believed that I would end up being a great fighter and throughout the years I have done everything necessary to get there. If you believe you can do it, then everything else falls into place.’ - From "Winners", by Alastair Campbell ["he" is Floyd Mayweather].

Questa ripugnanza per lo spreco, così come l'amore che provo per l'ordine e per le cose e le abitudini semplici e l'innato disprezzo che sento per il lusso cafonesco ed esagerato, sono una prova della mia natura di uomo ben nato e di vero artista. - From "Memorie della mia vita", by Giorgio de Chirico.

Questo è richiedere troppo e significa quindi anche restare delusi. Ma la delusione può avere due conseguenze: una può essere la rassegnazione e quindi l'interruzione del TA; l'altra invece può portare l'individuo a reagire, cioè a liberarsi delle sue illusioni e delle idee sbagliate che si è fatto su se stesso. Questo disincantamento cosciente e ragionato porta a fare un altro passo avanti, che permette di avere una nuova e diversa motivazione nei confronti del TA e quindi una maggiore possibilità di realizzarlo. - From "Manuale di Training Autogeno", by Bernt H. Hoffmann.

Bilardo, the chief destroyer in midfield, was alleged to have often carried pins onto the pitch to jab at unsuspecting opponents. “You don’t arrive at glory through a path of roses,” said Zubeldía. - Zubeldía was the coach of the Argentinian football team Estudiantes in the 60s.

Today stories are what they are, with neither a beginning nor an end necessarily, without key scenes, without a dramatic arc, without catharsis. They can be made up of tatters, of fragments, as unbalanced as the lives we lead. - From "The Architecture of Vision: Writings and Interviews on Cinema", by Michelangelo Antonioni.

Cuando el equipo lo necesita, está - Diego Armando Maradona, explaining in an interview why Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player.

But for Antonioni, "a shot is never the product of a process of reasoning, it is an instinctive choice." And the same is true of other technical and expressive elements: "They are often unconscious factors, natural creative events, and as such, they often refuse a rational explanation." - From "The Architecture of Vision: Writings and Interviews on Cinema", by Michelangelo Antonioni.

I have had the honor of dining with him twice. He spoke to me on both occasions. A master tactician and a man of singular vision. He always said in battle, "Never mind the maneuvers. Just go straight at 'em." - From "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" (the movie) [Captain Jack Aubrey is referring to Lord Nelson].

“I’ve never cared if I stuff it up. Give me a crack at anything. The more aggressive you are, the more luck you get. If you’re in doubt, attack. If you’re not sure, attack. What’s the worst thing that can happen?” - From "Winners", by Alastair Campbell [Shane Warne, the Australian cricketer, is quoted].

It is my observation, after competing against and teaching the world’s best, the primary thing that separates the winners from the others is the way they think. Winners are convinced they will finish first. The others hope to finish first. - From “With Winning in Mind” by Lanny Bassham.

Anche, diceva: “Il rimpianto è il vano pascolo d’uno spirito disoccupato. Bisogna sopra tutto evitare il rimpianto occupando sempre lo spirito con nuove sensazioni e con nuove imaginazioni." - From "Il piacere", by Gabriele D'Annunzio [the father of Andrea Sperelli, the protagonist of the novel, is quoted].

Self-doubt is part of being human. A person who continues to doubt himself often does so because he thinks he “always ought to be confident,” as one player told me. He’s wrong. “Always” is not typically being human. We all have self-doubt. It is a matter of degree and determination. - From "The Mental Keys to Hitting", by H. A. Dorfman.

In her view, the importance of the matters at hand out-weighed any consideration of good form and rules of polite behavior. Hel might have told her that, in the long run, the “minor” virtues are the only ones that matter. Politeness is more reliable than the moist virtues of compassion, charity, and sincerity; just as fair play is more important than the abstraction of justice. The major virtues tend to disintegrate under the pressures of convenient rationalization. But good form is good form, and it stands immutable in the storm of circumstance. - From "Shibumi", by Trevanian.

Self-image directly affects how we perform. Regardless of our actual level of fitness, if we feel strong, agile, and adventurous, then we climb better than if we feel weak, clumsy, and meek. - From "The Rock Warrior's Way: Mental Training For Climbers",  by Arno Ilgner.

When we talked about this or our shared goal of becoming doctors, he would use the phrase “Just put the hammer down.” At first I was unclear what he meant, but as time progressed I realized that he did not think like the rest of us. If he saw a path and felt that the essential variables were within his control, he never doubted his ability to achieve. He judged himself only on his effort and not on the praise of others [...] He knew that when he put his mind to the task at hand, not if he did, he would reach his goal. His phrase “just put the hammer down” symbolized the melding of action and desire in order to forge will. - From “Finding Your Zone”, by Michael Lardon [he is writing about Eric Heiden].

Spend time with positive people, people who will encourage you to seek your dream and inspire you to find the inner strength needed. Negative people are not necessary. - From “Finding Your Zone”, by Michael Lardon

Shortstop Alex Rodriguez is mature beyond his years, as a hitter and as a person. He keeps things simple philosophically. “I’m a player who focuses on the now,” he says. “That’s what has made me successful. I focus on the present tense and not worry about the future or the past.” Short and sweet. - From "The Mental Keys to Hitting", by H. A. Dorfman.

Ricordo benissimo come mi venne l'idea dell'Avventura. Ero su uno yacht con degli amici, mi svegliavo prima di loro e sedevo a prua in complete abbandono. Una mattina mi trovai a pensare ad una ragazza che anni prima era scomparsa e della quale non si era saputo più nulla. L'avevamo cercata dappertutto per giorni e giorni, inutilmente. Lo yacht stava navigando verso Ponza, ormai vicina. E io pensai: che sia lì? Tutto qua. - From "Sei film", by Michelangelo Antonioni. 

“Know what you’re doing and you’ll be a confident boy. Know how to deal with what happens to you and you’ll be a confident man.” — Mac Dorfman, my father. - From "The Mental Keys to Hitting", by H. A. Dorfman.

Although he was fiercely intelligent and highly educated, Caesar was a man of action and it is for this that he is remembered. - From "Caesar: Life of a Colossus", by Adrian Goldsworthy.

Latent in me, I suppose, there was always the belief that writing was greater than other things, or at least would prove to be greater in the end. Call it a delusion if you like, but within me was an insistence that whatever we did, the things that were said, the dawns, the cities, the lives, all of it had to be drawn together, made into pages, or it was in danger of not existing, of never having been. There comes a time when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real. - From “Don't Save Anything”, by James Salter.

And as for Joseph Conrad, the Polish sea captain who carved out an immortal niche in the literature of a country not his own, [Graham] Greene stopped reading him in 1932 because he was simply too influential a force. - From “Don't Save Anything”, by James Salter.

[...] it can hardly be denied that little by little can take you a long way. - From "Greeks Bearing Gifts", by Philip Kerr.

“In a war staying alive is a bit like playing tennis. It looks a lot easier when you’ve never had to play yourself." - From "Greeks Bearing Gifts", by Philip Kerr.

Never forget, always replace – that’s what my father used to tell me when a girl gave me the sack. - From "January Window", by Philip Kerr.

Allora il padrone di casa tenta un vecchio gioco russo, sfidandolo a chi regge meglio l’alcol: gli italiani sono un grande popolo, sostiene, «ma come bevitori non esistete». Marinetti era stato avvisato da un mandolinista napoletano, che non poteva mancare nella festa, e inizia una gara a colpi di «bicchieroni» di champagne, vinta da lui per abbandono del petroliere al decimo bicchiere. - From "Filippo Tommaso Marinetti", by Giordano Bruno Guerri.

Pero notarás algo extraño: una sensación indefinida, como de que algo no está donde debe. - From "La Reina del Sur", by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

L’attaccante schiaccia fuori perché la palla non è alzata bene. A sua volta l’alzatore non è stato preciso per colpa della ricezione. A questo punto i ricettori si girano a guardare su chi scaricare la responsabilità. Ma non possono chiedere all’avversario di battere facile, in modo da ricevere bene. Così dicono di esser stati accecati dal faretto sul soffitto, collocato dall’elettricista in un punto sbagliato. In pratica, se perdiamo è colpa dell’elettricista. Julio Velasco, former coach the Italian National volleyball team.

Los hombres se dividen en dos grupos, pensó ella de pronto. Los que pelean y los que no. Los que aceptan la vida como viene y dicen chale, ni modo, y cuando se encienden los focos levantan los brazos en la playa, y los otros. Los que hacen que a veces, en mitad de un mar oscuro, una mujer los mire como ahora yo lo miro a él. - From "La Reina del Sur", by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

[...] per un fenomeno d’intuizione non raro in certi spiriti esercitati all’analisi dell’essere interiore, intravide l’attitudine morale della visitatrice e lo svolgimento della scena che dovea seguire. - From "Il piacere", by Gabriele D'Annunzio.

En la tierra hace falta personas que trabajen más y critiquen menos, que construyan más y destruyan menos, que prometan menos y resuelvan más, que esperen recibir menos y dar más, que digan mejor ahora que mañana. - Ernesto Guevara.

La vida es hoy. - Una amiga querida.

He wasn't like you and me. He wasn't a normal person. He was a genius. He had a kind of, uh, beautiful, Japanese, Oriental philosophy of life. - From "Lolita", the Kubrick movie, not the Nabokov novel [Lolita is talking about Clare Quilty].

Guai a cedere a simili romanticismi, diceva Gheorgazis. Romanticismi? Forse, ma un uomo è un uomo anche perché cede ai romanticismi. - From "Un Uomo", by Oriana Fallaci.

Office discussions ranged from abstract Riemannian geometry to the practicalities of electric noise in circuits. Fermi insisted that every assumption be tested and no formula taken for granted. One of the most brilliant theory students claimed they all learned from Fermi the maxim “Physics is to be built from the ground up, brick by brick by brick, layer by layer.” - From "The Pope of Physics", by Gino Segrè.