Weekend Words: Fanatic

“I carry from my mother’s womb a fanatic’s heart.”

Eugène Delacroix, “The Fanatics of Tangier” (1837-38), oil on canvas,
98 x 131 cm, Institute of Arts, Minneapolis (image via Web Gallery of

Weighing in at 1,056 pages, Donald Judd Writings, published in November by Judd Foundation and David Zwirner Books, represents, according to Zwirner’s press release, “the most comprehensive collection of the artist’s writings assembled to date.”

The following entry from an excerpt titled NOTES, JANUARY TO AUGUST 1991 was included in a recent post on the website of The Paris Review:

The Americans could be fanatic about the True Faith or Leninism, but they are fanatic about not much at all, not about a defined cause, but about a few vague attitudes that have drifted to a pause momentarily. In the shallow expanse of vague ideas the point of fanaticism can be anywhere. When did so many obediently fight for so little? At least Genghis Khan was genuinely selfish. The Americans can’t even focus on that.


The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

—Bertrand Russell

Fanatics are picturesque, mankind would rather see gestures than listen to reasons.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

Fanaticism is always a sign of repressed doubt

—Carl Jung

Is it not time to cry that the blind shall see, the deaf hear, the lame walk? But that which fanaticism formerly promised to its elect, science now accomplishes for all men.

—Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

The worst vice of a fanatic is his sincerity.

—Oscar Wilde

A fanatic is always the fellow on the other side.

—Will Rogers

A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

—Winston Churchill

I carry from my mother’s womb a fanatic’s heart.

—William Butler Yeats, “Remorse for Intemperate Speech”

The man visited by ecstasies and visions, who takes dreams for realities is an enthusiast; the man who supports his madness with murder is a fanatic.

—Voltaire, Fanaticism (1764)

The fanatic is incorruptible: if he kills for an idea, he can just as well get himself killed for one; in either case, tyrant or martyr, he is a monster.

—E. M. Cioran

What will happen once the authentic mass man takes over, we do not know yet, although it may be a fair guess that he will have more in common with the meticulous, calculated correctness of Himmler than with the hysterical fanaticism of Hitler, will more resemble the stubborn dullness of Molotov than the sensual vindictive cruelty of Stalin.

—Hannah Arendt

The closer a man approaches tragedy the more intense is his concentration of emotion upon the fixed point of his commitment, which is to say the closer he approaches what in life we call fanaticism.

—Arthur Miller

There is no place in a fanatic’s head where reason can enter.

—Napoleon Bonaparte

Just as every conviction begins as a whim so does every emancipator serve his apprenticeship as a crank. A fanatic is a great leader who is just entering the room.

—Heywood Broun

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.

—George Santayana, Life of Reason (1905)

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the Internet has evolved into a force strong enough to reflect the greatest hopes and fears of those who use it. After all, it was designed to withstand nuclear war, not just the puny huffs and puffs of politicians and religious fanatics.

—Denise Caruso

It was Brooklyn against the world. They were not only complete fanatics, but they knew baseball like the fans of no other city. It was exciting to play there. It was a treat. I walked into that crummy, flyblown park as Brooklyn manager for nine years, and every time I entered, my pulse quickened and my spirits soared.

—Leo Durocher

comments (0)