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‘We chase dreams and embrace shadows’: Anatole France

‘We chase dreams and embrace shadows’: Anatole France

‘We chase dreams and embrace shadows’: Anatole France

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the quote that runs along the bottom of this blog: ‘We chase dreams and embrace shadows.’ Anatole France’s quote echoes through my novel Burning Embers. ‘But who was Anatole France?’ you may well be wondering – he’s not a writer perhaps familiar to readers outside France unless you are studying literature.

In his time, Anatole France (1844–1924) was a celebrated French writer whose works range from poems, plays and novels to literary and social criticism. He spent his life surrounded by literature – his father owned a book shop, and during his career he worked as a cataloguer and eventually a librarian for the French Senate. His works were on a wide range of subjects, and earned him a place in the French Academy, the official authority on language in France (and because he was unafraid in his writing, some of his books were also placed on the Index of Forbidden Books of the Roman Catholic Church). Such was the worldwide recognition for his talent as a writer that towards the end of his life, in 1921, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature ‘in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament’.

Anatole France’s works remain on the curriculums of literature courses in France and around the world, but he is perhaps most commonly remembered for his poetic and insightful aphorisms, like that which I use in Burning Embers. Another personal favourite of mine is this: ‘Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.’ Here are some other Anatole France quotes that you may enjoy:

  • A person is never happy except at the price of some ignorance.
  • All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
  • If the path be beautiful, let us not question where it leads.
  • Irony is the gaiety of reflection and the joy of wisdom.
  • It is human nature to think wisely and act in an absurd fashion.
  • The history books which contain no lies are extremely tedious.
  • To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe.
  • We do not know what to do with this short life, but we want another which will be eternal.
  • We have never heard the devil’s side of the story, God wrote all the book.
  • When a thing has been said and well said, have no scruple; take it and copy it.

If you’d like to read for yourself some of France’s works, you can do so at Project Gutenburg: http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/f#a755.

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