Quotations by Fussell, Paul

What someone doesn’t want you to publish is journalism; all else is publicity.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
“A Power of Facing Unpleasant Facts” (1981)
 
Added on 9-Aug-12 | Last updated 9-Aug-12
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Chickenshit refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige; sadism thinly disguised as necessary discipline; a constant “paying off of old scores”; and insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances. Chickenshit is so called — instead of horse- or bull- or elephant-shit — because it is small-minded and ignoble and takes the trivial seriously. Chickenshit can be recognized instantly because it never has anything to do with winning the war.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
“Chickenshit: An Anatomy,” Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989)
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Sometimes misattributed to historian Stephen Ambrose, who used part of it (with attribution) in his Band of Brothers (1992).
 
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Travel sharpens the senses. Abroad one feels, sees and hears things in an abnormal way.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
“On Travel and Travel Writing,” The Norton Book of Travel (1987)
 
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The past, which as always did not know the future, acted in ways that ask to be imagined before they are condemned. Or even simplified.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
“Thank God for the Atom Bomb,” The New Republic (26 Aug 1981)
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Reprinted in Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays (1988).
 
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I’m a pacifist about certain things. I’m a pacifist in the way I define national interest. I use this example frequently: If the Mexicans decided to cross the Texas border with firearms, I would be down there in a moment with a rifle and a whistle to direct the troops to repel them. If the United States is attacked, I will defend it. My problem is the United States’ defending the interests of the Union Oil Company or the United Fruit Company. Those are not American interests. They’re private-money interests, and that bothers me a great deal.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
“The Initial Shock,” Interview by Sheldon Hackney, Humanities (Nov/Dec 1996)
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“Those who fought know a secret about themselves, and it is not very nice.” They have experienced secretly and privately their natural human impulse toward sadism and brutality. […] Not merely did I learn to kill with a noose of piano wire put around somebody’s neck from behind, but I learned to enjoy the prospect of killing that way. It’s those things that you learn about yourself that you never forget. You learn that you have much wider dimensions than you had imagined before you had to fight a war. That’s salutary. It’s well to know exactly who you are so you can conduct the rest of your life properly.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
“The Initial Shock,” Interview by Sheldon Hackney, Humanities (Nov/Dec 1996)
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Added on 23-Jun-21 | Last updated 23-Jun-21
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If we do not redefine manhood, war is inevitable.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
(Attributed)
 
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Americans are the only people in the world known to me whose status anxiety prompts them to advertise their college and university affiliations in the rear window of their automobiles.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, ch. 4 (1983)
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Anyone who doesn’t realize that, whether for their attenders or their conductors, colleges and universities are the current equivalent of salons and levees and courts should look harder. If no other institution here confers the titles of nobility forbidden by the Constitution, they do. Or something very much like it.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, ch. 6 (1983)
 
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The middles cleave to euphemisms not just because they’re an aid in avoiding facts. They like them also because they assist their social yearnings towards pomposity. This is possible because most euphemisms permit the speaker to multiply syllables, and the middle class confuses sheer numerousness with weight and value.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Class (1983)
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Added on 12-Aug-21 | Last updated 12-Aug-21
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Today the Somme is a peaceful but sullen place, unforgetting and unforgiving. The people, who work largely at raising vegetables and grains, are “correct” but not friendly. To wander now over the fields destined to extrude their rusty metal fragments for centuries is to appreciate in the most intimate way the permanent reverberations of July, 1916. When the air is damp you can smell rusted iron everywhere, even though you only see wheat and barley.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
The Great War and Modern Memory, ch. 2 “The Troglodyte World” (1975)
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Travelers learn not just foreign customs and curious cuisines and unfamiliar beliefs and novel forms of government. They learn, if they are lucky, humility. Experiencing on their senses a world different from their own, they realize their provincialism and recognize their ignorance.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
The Norton Book of Travel, Introduction (1987)
 
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The worst thing about war was the sitting around and wondering what you were doing morally.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Times of London (28 Nov 1991)
 
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To get home you had to end the war. To end the war was the reason you fought it. The only reason.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, ch. 11 (1989)
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In war, it is not just the weak soldiers, or the sensitive ones, or the highly imaginative or cowardly ones, who will break down. Inevitably, all will break down if in combat long enough.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, ch. 18 (1989)
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Added on 23-Sep-21 | Last updated 23-Sep-21
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