Aphorisms by Georges Perros
Gertrude Stein once dismissed Ezra Pound as the ‘village explainer’. In his aphoristic writings, Georges Perros (1923-1978) at times comes off as the ‘village complainer’. Though born in the literary hothouse of Paris, by his mid-thirties Perros settled in a quiet town on the coast of Brittany. There he wrote his aphorisms and lived apart from the writerly crowd.
Not unlike the dour and acerbic Cioran, Perros’ aphorisms languorously lash out at the absurdities of human life, expose personal weakness, and interrogate the nature of love: “Any woman putting me into an erotic state makes me want to make love with another woman.” Like a boxer working out in front of a mirror often he is the target of his own jabs: “The less I lie, the more I blush.” The wit and humor of many of these pensées relieves some the darkness of those other pieces, which seem to be drafts for a suicide note: “Suicide doesn’t mean wanting to die but, rather, wanting to disappear,” and “I see only absences.” Perhaps a prelude to the last section of this book, which is a series of journal entries written as Perros fell into severe cancer treatments, and which he seemed to take on with heroic stoicism: “I dwell inside my shadow.”
Here’s a Perros selection, from Paper Collage (Seagull Books, 2015), translated from the French by John Taylor. (For even more Perros, see the Fall 2010 issue of FragLit Magazine, edited by Olivia Dresher, an accomplished aphorist herself, where John Taylor published an extensive group of Perros aphorisms.
Memory is like the mantel of a fireplace. Covered with curios that one must be careful not to break but that one can no longer see.
Man is the only … thing of this world that raises its eyes to the sky as if it were asking a question.
How to make the other person stupid without his noticing? Love him.
Having nothing to hide except that you’ve nothing to hide.
I’m sure that God exists. As for believing in Him, that’s another matter.
As soon as man feels eternity, the moment falls off the hook.
It takes the stupid a long time to understand; and the intelligent, not to understand.
Man, a sum of subtractions.
Sitting next to me in the café was a gentleman laughing while reading The Financial Times.
Curiosity, the bee of ignorance.
When my dog sees me completely naked, it doesn’t recognize me.
I never heard a fisherman say he loves the sea.
He said softly what he thought out loud.
He was more intelligent than his own average.
Human beings are old babies.
You need character only two or three times during your lifetime.