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Jean Rhys

  • They sat at a corner table in the little restaurant, eating with gusto and noise after the manner of simple-hearted people who like their neighbours to see and know their pleasures.

  • She respected Americans: they were not like the English, who, under a surface of annoying moroseness of manner, were notoriously timid and easy to turn round your finger.

  • I long to be ... Like Other People! The extraordinary, ungetatable, oddly cruel Other People, with their way of wantonly hurting and then accusing you of being thin-skinned, sulky, vindictive or ridiculous.

  • For the first time she had dimly realized that only the hopeless are starkly sincere and that only the unhappy can either give or take sympathy — even some of the bitter and dangerous voluptuousness of misery.

  • There is no doubt that running away on a fresh, blue morning can be exhilarating.

  • Love was a terrible thing. You poisoned it and stabbed at it and knocked it down into the mud — well down — and it got up and staggered on, bleeding and muddy and awful. Like — like Rasputin.

  • The woman had a humble, cringing manner. Of course, she had discovered that, having neither money nor virtue, she had better be humble if she knew what was good for her.

  • The feeling of Sunday is the same everywhere, heavy, melancholy, standing still. Like when they say, 'As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.'

  • Cold — cold as truth, cold as life. No, nothing can be as cold as life.

  • A room is a place where you hide from the wolves outside and that's all any room is.

  • Life is curious when it is reduced to its essentials.

  • There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about.

  • Age seldom arrives smoothly or quickly. It's more often a succession of jerks.

    • Jean Rhys,
    • in The Observer ()
  • I am the only real truth I know.

    • Jean Rhys,
    • in Susan Cahill, ed., Women and Fiction 2 ()
  • ... before I could read, almost a baby, I imagined that God, this strange thing or person I heard about, was a book.

  • ... all of a writer that matters is in the book or books. It is idiotic to be curious about the person.

  • I like shape very much. A novel has to have shape, and life doesn't have any.

  • ... I'd kiss his glossy neck, stroke his mane and say 'Darling, darling!' for he was a staid horse who allowed intimacies.

  • If I stop writing my life will have been an abject failure. It is that already to other people. But it could be an abject failure to myself. I will not have earned death.

  • All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.

    • Jean Rhys,
    • in David Plante, Difficult Women ()
  • I think that the desire to be cruel and to hurt (with words because any other way might be dangerous to ourself) is part of human nature. Parties are battles (most parties), a conversation is a duel (often). Everybody's trying to hurt first, to get in the dig that will make him or her feel superior, feel triumph.

  • I feel like a baited bull and look a wreck, and as for my unfortunate brain well I saw it neatly described yesterday on an automatic thing in the tube: This machine is empty till further notice.

  • ... very few people change after well say seven or seventeen. Not really. They get more this or more that and of course look a bit different. But inside they are the same.

    • Jean Rhys,
    • to daughter Maryvonne (1955), in Carole Angier, Jean Rhys ()
  • There must be something after. You see, we have such longings, such great longings, they can't be for nothing ...

    • Jean Rhys,
    • in Carole Angier, Jean Rhys ()
  • [On herself:] A doormat in a world of boots.

    • Jean Rhys,
    • in The Guardian ()

Jean Rhys, Dominican-born English novelist

(1890 - 1979)

Real name: Ella Gwendolen Rees Williams.