29+ quotes from The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Quotes from The Secret History

Donna Tartt ·  559 pages

Rating: (209.5K votes)


“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Does such a thing as 'the fatal flaw,' that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn't. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“It's a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: head thrown I back, throat to the stars, "more like deer than human being." To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to release them in a single burst! To sing, to scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“But how,” said Charles, who was close to tears, “how can you possibly justify cold-blooded murder?’
Henry lit a cigarette. “I prefer to think of it,” he had said, “as redistribution of matter.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“There is nothing wrong with the love of Beauty. But Beauty - unless she is wed to something more meaningful - is always superficial.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Are you happy here?" I said at last.
He considered this for a moment. "Not particularly," he said. "But you're not very happy where you are, either.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Could it be because it reminds us that we are alive, of our mortality, of our individual souls- which, after all, we are too afraid to surrender but yet make us feel more miserable than any other thing? But isn't it also pain that often makes us most aware of self? It is a terrible thing to learn as a child that one is a being separate from the world, that no one and no thing hurts along with one's burned tongues and skinned knees, that one's aches and pains are all one’s own. Even more terrible, as we grow old, to learn that no person, no matter how beloved, can ever truly understand us. Our own selves make us most unhappy, and that's why we're so anxious to lose them, don't you think?”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Some things are too terrible to grasp at once. Other things - naked, sputtering, indelible in their horror - are too terrible to really grasp ever at all. It is only later, in solitude, in memory that the realization dawns: when the ashes are cold; when the mourners have departed; when one looks around and finds oneself - quite to one's surprise - in an entirely different world.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“It is is better to know one book intimately than a hundred superficially.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“One likes to think there's something in it, that old platitude amor vincit omnia. But if I've learned one thing in my short sad life, it is that that particular platitude is a lie. Love doesn't conquer everything. And whoever thinks it does is a fool.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Forgive me, for all the things I did but mostly for the ones that I did not.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“For if the modern mind is whimsical and discursive, the classical mind is narrow, unhesitating, relentless. It is not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days. But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“There are such things as ghosts. People everywhere have always known that. And we believe in them every bit as much as Homer did. Only now, we call them by different names. Memory. The unconscious.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“In short: I felt my existence was tainted, in some subtle but essential way.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Once, over dinner, Henry was quite startled to learn from me than men had walked on the moon. “No,” he said, putting down his fork.
“It’s true,” chorused the rest, who had somehow managed to pick this up along the way.
“I don’t believe it.”
“I saw it,” said Bunny. “It was on television.”
“How did they get there? When did this happen?"
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Anything is grand if it's done on a large enough scale.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Love doesn't conquer everything. And whoever thinks it does is a fool.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Does such a thing as "the fatal flaw," that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature?”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Any action, in the fullness of time, sinks to nothingness.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Death is the mother of beauty,” said Henry. “And what is beauty?” “Terror.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Why does that obstinate little voice in our heads torment us so? Could it be because it reminds us that we are alive, of our mortality, of our individual souls – which, after all, we are too afraid to surrender but yet make us feel more miserable than any other thing? It is a terrible thing to learn as a child that one is a being separate from the world, that no one and no thing hurts along with one’s burned tongues and skinned knees, that one’s aches and pains are all one’s own. Even more terrible, as we grow older, to learn that no person, no matter how beloved, can ever truly understand us. Our own selves make us most unhappy, and that’s why we’re so anxious to lose them, don’t you think?”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“All those layers of silence upon silence.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“I suppose the shock of recognition is one of the nastiest shocks of all.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“It is easy to see things in retrospect. But I was ignorant then of everything but my own happiness, and I don’t know what else to say except that life itself seemed very magical in those days: a web of symbol, coincidence, premonition, omen. Everything, somehow, fit together; some sly and benevolent Providence was revealing itself by degrees and I felt myself trembling on the brink of a fabulous discovery, as though any morning it was all going to come together–my future, my past, the whole of my life–and I was going to sit up in bed like a thunderbolt and say oh! oh! oh!”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Not quite what one expected, but once it happened one realized it couldn't be any other way.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“Being the only female in what was basically a boys’ club must have been difficult for her. Miraculously, she didn’t compensate by becoming hard or quarrelsome. She was still a girl, a slight lovely girl who lay in bed and ate chocolates, a girl whose hair smelled like hyacinth and whose scarves fluttered jauntily in the breeze. But strange and marvelous as she was, a wisp of silk in a forest of black wool, she was not the fragile creature one would have her seem.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


“It's funny, but thinking back on it now, I realize that this particular point in time, as I stood there blinking in the deserted hall, was the one point at which I might have chosen to do something very much different from what I actually did. But of course I didn't see this crucial moment for what it actually was; I suppose we never do. Instead, I only yawned, and shook myself from the momentary daze that had come upon me, and went on my way down the stairs.”
― Donna Tartt, quote from The Secret History


About the author

Donna Tartt
Born place: in Greenwood, Mississippi, The United States
Born date December 23, 1963
See more on GoodReads

Popular quotes

“I don't like compliments and I don't see why a man should think he is pleasing a woman enormously when he says to her a whole heap of things that he doesn't mean.”
― Oscar Wilde, quote from Lady Windermere's Fan


“Spiritual warfare begins and ends with praise.”
― Pedro Okoro, quote from The Ultimate Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Learn to Fight from Victory, Not for Victory!


“Don't bother about believing it, if you don't like it,' said the Princess. 'It doesn't so much matter what you believe as what I am.”
― E. Nesbit, quote from The Enchanted Castle


“ تعلمت أنك في نهاية الشتاء تستطيع -إذا دقت النظر- أن تتبين على الأغصان العارية كثيرة العقد براعم دقيقة مغلقة على نقطة خضراء في المركز تنبئ بوفرة الزهر الآتي في الربيع”
― Ahdaf Soueif, quote from The Map of Love


“But on May 15, 1967, the elite units of the Egyptian Army suddenly crossed the Sinai and reached the Israeli border while President Nasser expelled the United”
― Michael Bar-Zohar, quote from Mossad


Interesting books

City of Lost Souls
(348.5K)
City of Lost Souls
by Cassandra Clare
The Prince of Tides
(171.8K)
The Prince of Tides
by Pat Conroy
Norwegian Wood
(240.5K)
Norwegian Wood
by Haruki Murakami
Fifty Shades Darker
(644.1K)
Fifty Shades Darker
by E.L. James
Kafka on the Shore
(215.6K)
Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
(230.8K)
Fried Green Tomatoes...
by Fannie Flagg

About BookQuoters

BookQuoters is a community of passionate readers who enjoy sharing the most meaningful, memorable and interesting quotes from great books. As the world communicates more and more via texts, memes and sound bytes, short but profound quotes from books have become more relevant and important. For some of us a quote becomes a mantra, a goal or a philosophy by which we live. For all of us, quotes are a great way to remember a book and to carry with us the author’s best ideas.

We thoughtfully gather quotes from our favorite books, both classic and current, and choose the ones that are most thought-provoking. Each quote represents a book that is interesting, well written and has potential to enhance the reader’s life. We also accept submissions from our visitors and will select the quotes we feel are most appealing to the BookQuoters community.

Founded in 2018, BookQuoters has quickly become a large and vibrant community of people who share an affinity for books. Books are seen by some as a throwback to a previous world; conversely, gleaning the main ideas of a book via a quote or a quick summary is typical of the Information Age but is a habit disdained by some diehard readers. We feel that we have the best of both worlds at BookQuoters; we read books cover-to-cover but offer you some of the highlights. We hope you’ll join us.