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Madeleine L'Engle

  • Yes, it was to her faults that she turned to save herself now.

  • Like and equal are two entirely different things.

  • ... we can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts.

  • Wild nights are my glory.

  • That's something I've noticed about food: whenever there's a crisis if you can get people to eating normally things get better.

  • If you're going to care about the fall of the sparrow you can't pick and choose who's going to be the sparrow. It's everybody ...

  • That's the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they've been all along.

  • You cannot see the past that did not happen any more than you can foresee the future.

  • ... life is the greatest gift that could ever be conceived ... A daffodil pushing up through the dark earth to the spring, knowing somehow deep in its roots that spring and light and sunshine will come, has more courage and more knowledge of the value of life than any human being I've met.

  • If it's not good enough for adults, it's not good enough for children.

  • The concentration of a small child at play is analogous to the concentration of the artist of any discipline. In real play, which is real concentration, the child is not only outside time, he is outside himself.

  • The moment humility becomes self-conscious, it becomes hubris. One cannot be humble and aware of oneself at the same time.

  • When we can play with the unself-conscious concentration of a child, this is: art: prayer: love.

  • During the long drag of years before our youngest child went to school, my love for my family and my need to write were in acute conflict. The problem was really that I put two things first. My husband and children came first. So did my writing. Bump.

  • An infinite question is often destroyed by finite answers.

  • All real art is, in its true sense, religious; it is a religious impulse; there is no such thing as a non-religious subject. But much bad or downright sacrilegious art depicts so-called religious subjects.

  • I can't think of one great human being in the arts, or in history generally, who conformed, who succeeded, as education experts tell us children must succeed, with his peer group.

  • To refuse to respond is in itself a response.

  • Integrity, like humility, is a quality which vanishes the moment we are conscious of it in ourselves. We see it only in others.

  • Inspiration does not always precede the act of writing; it often follows it.

  • Nothing important is completely explicable.

  • The primary needs can be filled without language. We can eat, sleep, make love, build a house, bear children, without language. But we cannot ask questions. We cannot ask, 'Who am I? Who are you? Why?'

  • ... if I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children. ...

  • Great art always transcends its culture, while lesser art merely reflects it.

    • Madeleine L'Engle,
    • in Authors' Guild Bulletin ()
  • To write for children at all is an act of faith.

    • Madeleine L'Engle,
    • in Authors' Guild Bulletin ()
  • We tend to think things are new because we've just discovered them.

  • All war is insane.

  • The naked intellect is an extraordinarily inaccurate instrument.

  • It's a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.

  • I rebel against death, yet I know that it is how I respond to death's inevitability that is going to make me less or more fully alive.

  • She seems to have had the ability to stand firmly on the rock of her past while living completely and unregretfully in the present.

  • Because you're not what I would have you be / I blind myself to who, in truth, you are.

  • In art we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered, among the stars.

  • ... if a book is not good enough for a grownup, it is not good enough for a child.

  • When I am grappling with ideas which are radical enough to upset grown-ups, then I am likely to put these ideas into a story which will be marketed for children, because children understand what their parents have rejected and forgotten.

  • Schooling, instead of encouraging the asking of questions, too often discourages it.

  • No matter how true I believe what I am writing to be, if the reader cannot also participate in that truth, then I have failed.

  • A life lived in chaos is an impossibility for the artist. No matter how unstructured may seem the painter's garret in Paris or the poet's pad in Greenwich Village, the artist must have some kind of order or he will proudce a very small body of work. To create a work of art, great or small, is work, hard work, and work requires discipline and order.

  • When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. ... To be alive is to be vulnerable.

  • To be born is to start the journey towards death.

  • Art is an affirmation of life, a rebuttal of death. And here we blunder into paradox again, for during the creation of any form of art, art which affirms the value and the holiness of life, the artist must die. To serve a work of art, great or small, is to die, to die to self.

  • If it's bad art, it's bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.

  • I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, 'Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.'

  • If it can be verified, we don't need faith. ... Faith is for that which lies on the other side of reason. Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.

  • It is the ability to choose which makes us human.

  • We think because we have words, not the other way around. The more words we have, the better able we are to think conceptually.

  • There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.

  • All children are artists, and it is an indictment of our culture that so many of them lose their creativity, their unfettered imaginations, as they grow older.

  • For the past several generations we've forgotten what the psychologists call our archaic understanding, a willingness to know things in their deepest, most mythic sense. We're all born with archaic understanding, and I'd guess that the loss of it goes directly along with the loss of ourselves as creators.

  • One of the many sad results of the Industrial Revolution was that we came to depend more than ever on the intellect, and to ignore the intuition with its symbolic thinking.

  • The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain.

  • When we are writing, or painting, or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions, and are opened to a wider world, where colours are brighter, sounds clearer, and people more wondrously complex than we normally realize.

  • ... nothing loved is ever lost or perished.

  • ... the artistic temperament ... sometimes seems to me to be a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling, and when the bright angel dominates, out comes a great work of art, a Michelangelo David or a Beethoven symphony.

  • Because I am a storyteller I live by words. Perhaps music is a purer art form. It may be that when we communicate with life on another planet, it will be through music, not through language or words.

  • Women must be very gentle with men as they, as well as women, seek to regain the lost wholeness for which they were destined.

  • The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.

    • Madeleine L'Engle,
    • in The New York Times ()
  • ... the artist is not separate from the work and therefore cannot judge it.

  • We do not know and cannot tell when the spirit is with us. Great talent or small, it makes no difference. We are caught within our own skins, our own sensibilities; we never know if our technique has been adequate to the vision.

  • When a bride insists on telling her lover everything, I suspect she is looking for a father, not a husband.

  • A long-term marriage has to move beyond chemistry to compatibility, to friendship, to companionship. It is certainly not that passion disappears, but that it is conjoined with other ways of love.

  • Sometimes idiosyncrasies which used to be irritating become endearing, part of the complexity of a partner who has become woven deep into our own selves.

  • I suspect that in every good marriage there are times when love seems to be over.

  • The world of science lives fairly comfortably with paradox. We know that light is a wave, and also that light is a particle. The discoveries made in the infinitely small world of particle physics indicate randomness and chance, and I do not find it any more difficult to live with the paradox of a universe of randomness and chance and a universe of pattern and purpose than I do with light as a wave and light as a particle. Living with contradiction is nothing new to the human being.

  • I do not believe that true optimism can come about except through tragedy.

  • Severe illness isolates those in close contact with it, because it inevitably narrows the focus of concern. To a certain extent this can lead to healing, but not if the circle of concern is so tight that it cannot be broken into, or out of.

  • Are anybody's parents typical?

  • There's nothing more physically exhausting than a sense of failure.

  • ... artists ... all have a need that cannot be met by another human being.

  • What should happen to us is that we should grow to whatever is our peak, and then blow up in a blast of fireworks.

  • It's degrading and humiliating and dehumanizing. You stop being real. You lose your reality and it shatters your faith in other people's reality. Rape is a kind of murder.

  • We human beings grow through our failures, not our virtues.

  • Don't keep putting your anger off. Until you go through it, you can't get out of it.

  • Rape is not aggressive sexuality. It's sexualized aggression.

  • ... there are dozens and dozens of ways to be a family ... Family tends to happen.

  • A mystic is a person who sees the facts as inadequate.

    • Madeleine L'Engle,
    • in Carole F. Chase, Madeleine L'Engle, Suncatcher ()
  • Language changes. If it does not change, like Latin it dies. But we need to be aware that as our language changes, so does our theology change, particularly if we are trying to manipulate language for a specific purpose. That is what is happening with our attempts at inclusive language, which thus far have been inconclusive and unsuccessful.

  • ... science never threatens God — it opens up more possibilities.

    • Madeleine L'Engle,
    • in Riverbank Review ()
  • ... prayer is whenever we consciously try to get in contact with the numinous, the ineffable, the marvelous.

    • Madeleine L'Engle,
    • in Riverbank Review ()
  • Unlearning is the choice, conscious or unconscious, of any real artist. And it is the true sign of maturity.

    • Madeleine L'Engle,
    • lecture (1976), in Carole F. Chase, ed., Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life ()
  • The novelist helps us to see things we might not notice otherwise.

    • Madeleine L'Engle,
    • in The Writer ()
  • Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving. Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.

    • Madeleine L'Engle,
    • in The Writer ()
  • You have to write whatever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it's going to be too difficult for grownups, you write it for children.

    • Madeleine L'Engle
  • I know writers who write only when inspiration comes. How would Isaac Stern play if he played the violin only when he felt like it? He would be lousy.

    • Madeleine L'Engle
  • We need the rock of the past under our feet in order to spring forward into the future.

    • Madeleine L'Engle
  • Stories have a richness that goes way beyond fact. My writing knows more than I know. What a writer must do is listen to her book. It might take you where you don't expect to go.

    • Madeleine L'Engle
  • Anything that's natural can't be sinful — it maybe be inconvenient, but it's not sinful.

    • Madeleine L'Engle
  • Conversion for me was not a Damascus road experience. I slowly moved into an intellectual acceptance of what my intuition had always known.

    • Madeleine L'Engle
  • Inspiration comes during work, not before it.

  • As human beings, the closest we can get to truth is through story.

    • Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle, U.S. writer

(1918 - 2007)

Full name: Madeleine Camp L’Engle Franklin.