I love reading novels. It’s one of my addictions, I feel lost without one in my hand or on my mind. I love how completely i get to wear the skin of another person when reading them, how absorbed I am into the world that has been created in there, how everything recedes and suddenly there are a million, million possible realities with people I care about and fall in love with and hate and detest. I wanted to share some of my favourite passages from the books I read this January.
100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE BY GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ TRANSLATED BY GREGORY RABASSA.
(a magical book, both in writing and by the occurrence of magic, that follows a family and their fortunes through 100 years of upheaval and change in a south American country.)
…the devil had probably won his rebellion against God, and that he was now the one on the heavenly throne, without revealing his true identity in order to trap the unwary.
Walls eaten away by bone-salt, the broken down wooden balconies gutted by fungus, and nailed to the outside door, almost erased by rain the saddest cardboard sign in the world: Funeral Wreaths for sale.
She asked God, without fear, if he really believed that people were made of iron in order to bear so many troubles and mortifications.
The sun came out with such strength that the light creaked like a fishing boat.
Time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an eternalized fragment in a room.
BONES OF THE HILLS BY CONN IGGULDEN.
(a historical fiction book about the spread of the Mongol empire Genghis’ Khanship, the writer skilfully imagines the motivations and inner desires of the Mongol rulers)
There are some who will tell you they seek happiness, that there is nothing more to our lives than that simple aim. I tell you now that the sheep are happy on the plains and the eagles are happy in the air. For us, happiness is a small thing, one to be discounted in a man’s life. We strive and we suffer because through those small things we know that we are alive.
The Arabs judged dawn as a time when a black thread could be distinguished from a white one.
Life was just a restless fever dream, a short breath between longer sleep.
When you are afraid and you do nothing that matters…it eats at men when they think they are cowards. How you raise your sons and daughters matters. This wife who warms you at night matters. The joy you take in being alive, the pleasure of strong drink, companionship and stories-all that matters. But when you are dust other men go on without you.
HALF OF A YELLOW SUN BY NGOZI CHIMAMANDA ADICHIE
(a beautiful book based during the 3 year Biafran civil war. The book had one of the most beautiful women in the world and her twin sister who though she wasn’t as beautiful I couldn’t help falling in love with.)
Perhaps it was why an erection eluded him: the gelding mix of surprise and desire.
We don’t have dowries, we have bride prices
You and yours will live, and I and mine will live. Let the eagle perch and let the dove perch and, if either decrees that the other not perch, it will not be well for him.
If God could make them care so genuinely, God was a worthy concept.
The slow sadness of missing a person who was still there.
ON BEAUTY BY ZADIE SMITH
(this follows a family that’s half british(the father) and half American(the mother and children because culture matters more than genes sometimes) it is a story of the effects of beauty and adultery and the need to laugh with the people you love.)
“Halleluiah” by Leonard Cohen playing on her dime-store record player, that song Howard liked to call a hymn deconstructing a hymn.
The tears you cry for someone you never met who made something beautiful that you loved.
She called a rose a rose. He called it an accumulation of cultural and biological constructions circulating around the mutually attracting binary poles of nature/artifice.
The unmistakable Poles and Russians introducing the bones structure of Soviet Realism to an island of chinless, browless potato faces,
It takes a lot of practice to ensure that a whole bottle of Cabernet and a pint of beer makes only a slight dent in your sobriety, but Howard felt he had reached this stage of accomplishment
The smiled the kind of smile you might employ when trying to convince a lunatic to quit holding a gun to your mother’s head.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING BY MILAN KUNDERA.
(the protagonist cannot be faithful, this is his curse, he’s amazing with women this is his blessing, he falls in love with one woman and is thus cursed to forever hurt her. It’s a book about how painful love can be both for the person hurt and the person being hurt.)
No, vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of emptiness below us which tempts and lures is, it is the desire to fall, against which terrified, we defend ourselves.
When the strong were too weak to hurt the weak, the weak had to be strong enough to leave.
It was a recapitulation of time, a hymn to their common past, a sentimental summary of an unsentimental story that was disappearing in the distance.
Extremes mean borders beyond which life ends, and a passion for extremism, in art and in politics, is a veiled longing for death
Every Frenchman is different. But all actors the world over are similar- in Paris, in Prague , or the back of beyond. An actor is someone who in early childhood consents to exhibit himself for the rest of his life to the anonymous public. Without that basic consent which has nothing to do with talent, no one can become an actor. Similarly a doctor is someone who consents to spend his life with human bodies and all that they entail. That basic consent(and not talent or skill) enables him to enter the dissecting room during the first year of medical school and persevere through the requisite years.
Es muss sein, es muss sein, ja, ja, ja, ja!(it must be, it must be, yes, yes, yes, yes!) and the fourth voice chimes in with Heraus mit dem Beutel(out with the purse!) a year later the same motif showed up as the basis for the fourth movement of the last quartet, Opes 155. By that time Beethoven had forgotten about Dembscher’s purse. The words Es mus sein! Had acquired a much more solemn ring, they seemed to issue directly from the lips of Fate. In Kant’s language even Good Morning, suitably pronounced can take the shape of a metaphysical thesis. German is a language of heavy words. Es muss sein was no longer a joke it had become der schwer gefasste Entschulss(the difficulty of weighty resolution)
Men who pursue a multitude of women fit neatly into two categories. Some seek their own subjective and unchanging dream of a woman in all women. Others are prompted by a desire to possess the endless variety of the objective female world. The obsession of the former is lyrical: what they seek in women is themselves, their ideal, and since an ideal can never be found, they are disappointed again and again. The disappointment that propels them from woman to woman gives their inconstancy a kind of romantic excuse, so that many sentimental women are touched by their unbridled philandering. The obsession of the latter is epic and women see nothing the least bit touching in it: the man projects no subjective ideal on women, and since everything interests him, nothing can disappoint him. This inability to be disappointed has something scandalous about it. The obsession of the epic womaniser strikes people as lacking in redemption(redemption by disappointment.) because the lyrical womaniser always runs after the same type of woman, we even fail to notice when he exchanges one mistress for another. His friends perpetually cause misunderstandings by mixing up his lovers and calling them by the same name. In pursuit of knowledge, epic womanisers(and of course Tomas belonged in their ranks)turn away from conventional feminine beauty, of which they quickly tire, and inevitably end up as curiosity collectors. They are aware of this and a little ashamed of it and avoid causing their friends embarrassment, they refrain from appearing in public with their mistresses.
This is the image from which he was born. As I have pointed out before, characters are not born like people, of woman; they are born of a situation, a sentence, a metaphor containing in a nutshell a basic human possibility that the author thinks no one else has discovered or said something essential about. But isn’t it true that an author can write only about himself? Staring impotently across a courtyard, at a loss for what to do; hearing the pertinacious rumbling of one’s own stomach during a moment of love; betraying, yet lacking the will to abandon the glamorous path of betrayal; raising one’s fist with the crowds of the Grand March; displaying one’s wit before hidden microphones-I have known all these situations, I have experienced them myself, yet none of them has given rise to the person my curriculum vitae and I represent. The characters in my novels are my own unrealised possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them all. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border(the border beyond which my own I ends) which attracts me the most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become. But enough. Let us return to Tomas
We all need someone to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under. The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words for the look of the public… the second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners. They are happier than the people in the first category who, when they lose their public, have the feeling that lights have gone out in the room of their lives. This happens to all of them sooner or later. People in the second category, on the other hand can always come up with the eyes they need…then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly in the eyes of the one they love. Their situation is as dangerous as the situation of the people in the first category. One day the eyes of their beloved will close and the room will go dark…and finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers.
LOLITA BY VLADIMIR NABOKOV.
(the main character is a paedophile. The great success of this book is that you can empathise with such a disgusting character, that you can bear to see out of his eyes for however long it takes you to read it and it’s a pretty long book. It’s also so beautifully written it’s possible to transcribe the whole book, which means that paradoxically I highlighted much less)
As different as mist and mast
The result of considerable literary inbreeding in modern fiction
(On asking for directions) or else they went into such complicated explanations, with geometrical gestures, geographical generalities and strictly local clues.