“We All Have a Fatal Flaw” and Other Aphorisms


Arts & Culture


The aphorisms below are plucked from Muriel Spark’s fiction. In the words of Penelope Jardine, editor of The Good Comb: The Sayings of Muriel Spark, “That doesn’t mean either that Dame Muriel did not actually think what she says here and perhaps means it very much.”

  • A rebellion against a tyrant is only immoral when it hasn’t got a chance. 
  • I think waiter is such a funny word. It is we who wait.
  • How can she truly love? She’s too timid to hate well, let alone love. It takes courage to practice love.
  • Literary men, if they like women at all, do not want literary women but girls.
  • How seldom one falls in love with the lovable … how seldom … hardly ever. How do you know when you’re in love? The traffic in the city improves, and the cost of living seems to be very low. 
  • Being over seventy is like being engaged in a war. All our friends are going or gone, and we survive amongst the dead and dying as on a battlefield. 
  • Ridicule is the only honorable weapon we have left.
  • It is a common misunderstanding that one who does not know another’s mother tongue is assumed to be less intelligent and discerning than he is. 
  • The eye of the true artist doesn’t see life in the way of goods paid for. The world is ours. It is our birthright. We take it without payment. 
  • I had known for a long time that success could not be my profession in life, nor failure a calling, for that matter. These were by-products. 
  • All of the young of the human species are born omniscient. Babies, in the waking hours, know everything that is going on in the world; they can tune in to any conversation they choose, switch on any scene. We have all experienced this power.
  • I do not care to go about with nothing on my face so that everyone can see what is written on it.
  • The sacrifice of pleasure is of course itself a pleasure.
  • To teach a cat to play ping-pong, you have to first win the confidence and approval of the cat. 
  • We all have a fatal flaw. 
  • Be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur.


Copyright © 2018 by the Estate of Muriel Spark, reprinted by permission of Georges Borchardt Inc.