"It’s not important to know then all, but just to know a few well. You don't need to know all the museum when you go to a museum, but only a few paintings. In my case, in fact, for example, I know three paintings by Cezanne very well. It didn't do me any good at all to the museum all the time, but to reflect concretely on a limited amount of work. That’s culture, as they say. It does not consist of having it all, but in having reflected concretely on a few things."
- Jean-Marie Straub
"The fault I find with our journalism is that it forces us to take an interest in some fresh triviality or other every day, whereas only three or four books in a lifetime give us anything that is of real importance."
- Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust
"Comme l’on serait savant si l’on connaissait bien seulement cinq á six livres!"
("How wise one might be if one knew only some half-dozen books well!")
- Gustave Flaubert, in a letter to his mistress Louise Colet, 17 February 1853
(the full paragraph: "Tantôt j’ai fait un peu de grec et de latin, mais pas raide. Je vais reprendre, pour mes lectures du soir, les Morales de Plutarque. C’est une mine d’érudition et de pensées intarissable. Comme l’on serait savant, si l’on connaissait bien seulement cinq á six livres!")
inspired by a debate with Miguel Marías (here).
(some information gleaned/confirmed here)