A master of the pungent put-down, the sarcastic quip or the cynical shrug, Georges Clemenceau (1841 – 1929) was twice prime minister of France, the second time during the First World War. In the forests of the internet I have come across a collection of 50 or so of these perceptive, sometimes clever-clever, frequently cruel, aphorisms of his. I’ve put them on the Plums page. Others, more serious perhaps, are included in the Oxford Book of Quotations. Of the ones I’ve found, I’ve here selected ten particularly striking ones and translated them, somewhat freely, into English. See what you think.
France is an extremely fertile country: we plant officials here and what do we harvest? Taxes!
Bureaucrats make the best husbands: when they come homes in the evening, they’re not tired and they’ve already read the paper
Never be frightened of making enemies: if you don’t have any, it’s because you haven’t done anything
I know a whole heap of blokes whom I shall never forgive for the injuries I have done to them
Top graduates know everything, but nothing else
Women live longer than men, especially when they’re widows
Life has taught me that there are two things one can very well doo without: the Presidency of the Republic and the prostate*
You have to know what you want. If you know, you must have the courage to say it, and when you say it, you must have the courage to do it.
When you’re young, it’s for life
Life is a work of art
* I’ve heard a version of this in which ‘prostate’ and ‘Italians’ are the things we can do without; ma non posso trovarlo…