Václav Havel? André Gide? François Truffaut? Marcel Proust? John Dingell Sr.? Luis Buñuel? Amanda Palmer? Voltaire? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: There is a provocative saying about leadership, discipleship, and the search for truth that is commonly attributed to the Czech statesman Václav Havel who passed away in 2011. Here are two versions:
Follow the man who seeks the truth; run from the man who has found it.
Seek the company of those who search for truth; run from those who have found it.
Although I have connected these statements to Havel for years I recently began to doubt the ascription. I have been unable locate solid information about its provenance. Would you be willing to attempt to trace this saying?
Quote Investigator: A large and diverse set of expressions can be grouped together naturally with the two sayings presented by the questioner. Below are nine examples labeled with their years of publication. This exploration was conducted primarily using databases of English text, hence it was incomplete. Only the keystone first expression from Nobel laureate André Gide is listed here in French:
1952: Croyez ceux qui cherchent la vérité, doutez de ceux qui la trouvent.
1959: Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.
1971: Love those who seek the truth; beware of those who find it.
1974: Love those who seek the truth; distrust those who have found it.
1980: Follow the man who seeks the truth. Shun the one who claims to have found it.
1986: Lead me to those who seek the truth, and deliver me from those who’ve found it.
2007: Follow the man who seeks the truth; run from the man who has found it.
2009: Honour those who seek the truth, but beware of those who’ve found it.
2010: I love the man who seeks the truth and hate the man who claims to have it.
In 1952 “Ainsi Soit-Il, Ou Les Jeux Sont Faits” by André Gide was released in France. The title in English was “So Be It: Or The Chips Are Down”. The following statement was included in the book: 1
Croyez ceux qui cherchent la vérité, doutez de ceux qui la trouvent; doutez de tout; mais ne doutez pas de vous-mêmes.
In 1959 a translation of Gide’s volume to English by Justin O’Brien was created. Here is an extended excerpt. Boldface has been added to the excerpts below. In this passage the boldface corresponds to the French text immediately above: 2
I resist giving advice; and in a discussion I beat a hasty retreat. But I know that today many seek their way gropingly and don’t know in whom to trust. To them I say: believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it; doubt everything, but don’t doubt of yourself. There is more light in Christ’s words than in any other human word. This is not enough, it seems, to be a Christian: in addition, one must believe. Well, I do not believe. Having said this, I am your brother.
QI hypothesizes that the other eight statements above were derived directly or indirectly from the words of Gide. The second statement labeled 1959 is simply the translation created by O’Brien.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1953 October, The French Review, Volume 27, Number 1, André Gide-deux ans après sa mort, II by Lucien Wolff, Start Page 6, Quote Page 8, Published by American Association of Teachers of French. (JSTOR) link ↩
- 1959 copyright (1960 edition), So Be It: Or The Chips Are Down (Ainsi Soit-Il, Ou Les Jeux Sont Faits) by André Gide, Translated from French to English by Justin O’Brien, Quote Page 146, Chatto & Windus, London. (Verified on paper) ↩