65 Distinctive Gertrude Stein Quotes

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an American author, poet, and playwright known both for her interesting style and her famed art collection, which she began in Paris with her brother. Stein was on the leading edge of 20th-century intellectual life, hosting a Paris salon that was frequented by Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Henri Matisse, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others.

Her most famous work was “The Autobiography of Alice. B. Toklas.” Toklas was her life partner, and Stein wrote the novel from Alice’s perspective. She wrote poetry and plays as well as novels. Stein was never one to hold back her criticism or her opinion of anyone’s work. Although she was born in America, Paris was her home, and she stayed there until her death.

Gertrude Stein Quotes

Here are 65 of the most Distinctive Gertrude Stein quotes.

  1. “A very important thing is not to make up your mind that you are any one thing.”
  2. “Nothing is really so very frightening when everything is so very dangerous.”
  3. “For a very long time, everybody refuses and then almost without a pause almost everybody accepts.”
  4. “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”
  5. “It is awfully important to know what is and what is not your business.”
  6. “It is the human habit to think in centuries from a grandparent to a grandchild because it just does take about a hundred years for things to cease to have the same meaning as they did before.”
  7. “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”
  8. “You are extraordinary within your limits, but your limits are extraordinary!”
  9. “America is my country, and Paris is my hometown.”
  10. “All the world knows how to cry but not all the world knows how to sigh. Sighing is extra.”
  11. “You are so afraid of losing your moral sense that you are not willing to take it through anything more dangerous than a mud-puddle.”
  12. “So many words to use. Oh, do not say that words have a use.”
  13. “It takes a heap of loafing to write a book.”
  14. “Artists do not experiment. Experiment is what scientists do; they initiate an operation of unknown factors to be instructed by its results. An artist puts down what he knows and at every moment it is what he knows at that moment.”
  15. “It is the soothing thing about history that it does repeat itself.”
  16. “Art isn’t everything. It’s just about everything.”
  17. “One must dare to be happy. ”
  18. “The thing that differentiates man from animals is money.”
  19. ” Let me listen to me and not to them.”
  20. “Americans are very friendly and very suspicious, that is what Americans are and that is what always upsets the foreigner, who deals with them, they are so friendly how can they be so suspicious they are so suspicious how can they be so friendly but they just are.”
  21. “When they are alone they want to be with others, and when they are with others they want to be alone. After all, human beings are like that.”
  22. “Romance is everything.”
  23. “It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”
  24. “There is no such thing as repetition. Only insistence. ”
  25. “The deepest thing in any one is the conviction of the bad luck that follows boasting.”
  26. “The nineteenth century believed in science but the twentieth century does not.”
  27. “The one thing that everybody wants is to be free…not to be managed, threatened, directed, restrained, obliged, fearful, administered, they want none of these things they all want to feel free, the word discipline, and forbidden and investigated and imprisoned brings horror and fear into all hearts, they do not want to be afraid not more than is necessary in the ordinary business of living where one has to earn one’s living and has to fear want and disease and death….The only thing that any one wants now is to be free, to be let alone, to live their life as they can, but not to be watched, controlled and scared, no no, not.”
  28. “In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is.”
  29. “Disillusionment in living is finding that no one can really ever be agreeing with you completely in anything.”
  30. “The Jews have produced only three originative geniuses: Christ, Spinoza, and myself.”
  31. “It is funny the two things most men are proudest of is the thing that any man can do and doing does in the same way, that is being drunk and being the father of their son.”
  32. “A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears.”
  33. “Men and girls, men and girls: Artificial swine and pearls.”
  34. “It is funny that men who are supposed to be scientific cannot get themselves to realise the basic principle of physics, that action and reaction are equal and opposite, that when you persecute people you always rouse them to be strong and stronger.”
  35. “I think one is naturally impressed by anything having a beginning a middle and an ending when one is beginning writing and that it is a natural thing because when one is emerging from adolescence, which is really when one first begins writing one feels that one would not have been one emerging from adolescence if there had not been a beginning and a middle and an ending to anything.”
  36. “Love is the skillful audacity required to share an inner life.”
  37. “If everyone were not so indolent they would realise that beauty is beauty even when it is irritating and stimulating not only when it is accepted and classic.”
  38. “Literature – creative literature – unconcerned with sex, is inconceivable.”
  39. “One does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.”
  40. “I always say that you cannot tell what a picture really is or what an object really is until you dust it every day and you cannot tell what a book is until you type it or proof-read it. It then does something to you that only reading it never can do.”
  41. “Once more I can climb about and remind you that a woman in this epoch does the important literary thinking.”
  42. “Paris was the place that suited us who were to create the twentieth century art and literature.”
  43. “It is always a mistake to be plain-spoken.”
  44. “The minute you or anybody else knows what you are you are not it, you are what you or anybody else knows you are and as everything in living is made up of finding out what you are it is extraordinarily difficult really not to know what you are and yet to be that thing.”
  45. “Money is always there but the pockets change.”
  46. “Communists are people who fancied that they had an unhappy childhood.”
  47. “She says it is a good thing to have no sense of how it is done in the things that amuse you. You should have one absorbing occupation and as for the other things in life for full enjoyment you should only contemplate results. In this way you are bound to feel more about it than those who know a little of how it is done.”
  48. “Everybody said the same thing over and over again with infinite variations but over and over again until finally if you listened with great intensity you could hear it rise and fall and tell all that there was inside them, not so much by the actual words they said or the thoughts they had but the movement of their thoughts and words endlessly the same and endlessly different.”
  49. “The earth is the earth as a peasant sees it, the world is the world as a duchess sees it, and anyway a duchess would be nothing if the earth was not there as the peasant sees it.”
  50. “There never will be anything more interesting than that American Civil War.”
  51. “In a war everybody always knows all about Switzerland, in peace times it is just Switzerland but in war time it is the only country that everybody has confidence in, everybody.”
  52. “Everybody thinks that this civilization has lasted a very long time but it really does take very few grandfathers’ granddaughters to take us back to the dark ages.”
  53. “There ain’t no answer. There ain’t going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.”
  54. “After all anybody is as their land and air is. Anybody is as the sky is low or high. Anybody is as there is wind or no wind there. That is what makes a people, makes their kind of looks, their kind of thinking, their subtlety and their stupidity, and their eating and their drinking and their language.”
  55. “Let me repeat what history teaches. History teaches.”
  56. “I wish to remain to remember that stanzas go on.”
  57. “That is what you are. That’s what you all are … all of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.”
  58. “I could undertake to be an efficient pupil if it were possible to find an efficient teacher.”
  59. “The way to resume is to resume. If we knew everything ahead of time, all would be dictation not creation.”
  60. “Nature and man are opposed in Spain.”
  61. “A charm a single charm is doubtful. If the red is rose and there is a gate surrounding it, if inside is let in and there places change then certainly something is upright. It is earnest.”
  62. “She told her father Mr. Abram Colhard that she did not like it at all being one being living then. He never said anything. She was afraid then, she was one needing charming stories and happy telling of them and not having that thing she was always trembling.”
  63. “Spaniards and Americans are not like Europeans, they are not like Orientals, they have something in common, that is they do not need religion or mysticism not to believe in reality as all the world knows it, not even when they see it.”
  64. “No one is ahead of his time, it is only that the particular variety of creating his time is the one that his contemporaries who also are creating their own time refuse to accept.”
  65. “An audience is always warming but it must never be necessary to your work.”
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Gertrude Stein Video – Mini Biography

This is a great short biography of Gertrude Stein. Even if you only have a few minutes, check it out for a quick summary of her life and biography.

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For some readers, Gertrude Stein’s work was all but unintelligible; for others, her work was a singularly inspired thing of beauty. Her work still remains controversial and frequently read.

Use these Gertrude Stein quotes to help you remember we are each unique and we each have our important part to play in the grand scheme of the universe.

Image Credit: Carl Van Vechten, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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