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An Unfinished Woman: A Memoir

Lillian Hellman

Top 10 Best Quotes

“As others grown more intelligent under stress, I grow heavy, as if I were an animal on a chain.”

“Most people coming out of a war feel lost and resentful. What had been a minute-to-minute confrontation with yourself, your struggle with what courage you have against discomfort, at the least, and death at the other end, ties you to the people you have known in the war and makes, for a time, all others seem alien and frivolous. Friends are glad to see you again, but you know immediately that most of them have put you to one side, and while it is easy enough to say that you should have known that before, most of us don't, and it is painful. You are face to face with what will happen to you after death.”

“But then everybody who has been in the Soviet Union for any length of time has noticed their concern with the United States: we may be the enemy, but we are the admired enemy, and the so-called good life for us is the to-be-good life for them. During the war, the Russian combination of dislike and grudging admiration for us, and ours for them, seemed to me like the innocent rivalry of two men proud of being large, handsome and successful. But I was wrong. They have chosen to imitate and compete with the most vulgar aspects of American life, and we have chosen, as in the revelations of the CIA bribery of intellectuals and scholars, to say, "But the Russians do the same thing," as if honor were a mask that you put on and took off at a costume ball. They condemn Vietnam, we condemn Hungary. But the moral tone of giants with swollen heads, fat fingers pressed over the atom bomb, staring at each other across the forests of the world, is monstrously comic.”

“[France] may be the only country in the world where the rich are sometimes brilliant.”

“It was in that tree that I learned to read, filled with the passions that can only come to the bookish, grasping, very young, bewildered by almost all of what I read, sweating in the attempt to understand a world of adults I fled from in real life but desperately wanted to join in books. (I did not connect the grown men and women in literature with the grown men and women I saw around me. They were, to me, another species.)”

“I think I meant an intimation of sadness, a first recognition that there was so much to understand that one might never find one's way and the first signs, perhaps, that for a nature like mine, the way would not be easy. I cannot be sure that I felt all that then, although I can be sure that it was in the fig tree, a few years later, that I was first puzzled by the conflict which would haunt me, harm me, and benefit me the rest of my life: simply, the stubborn, relentless, driving desire to be alone as it came into conflict with the desire not to be alone when I wanted not to be.”

“I found that Dottie's middle age, old age, made rock of much that had been fluid, and eccentricities once charming became too strange for safety or comfort.”

“Hammett used to be irritated by that and would answer that nobody ever deliberately wrote a potboiler, you just did the best you could and woke up to find it good or no good.”

“All I mean is that I left too much of me unfinished because I wasted too much time.”--”

“Very thin ladies, any age, with hand sewing on them, have always frightened me, beginning with a rich great-aunt and her underwear embroidered by nuns. The more bones that show on women the more inferior I feel.”

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Book Keywords:

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