Anthony Powell · 718 pages
Rating: (3.6K votes)
“Later in life, I learnt that many things one may require have to be weighed against one's dignity, which can be an insuperable barrier against advancement in almost any direction. However, in those days, choice between dignity and unsatisfied curiosity was less clear to me as a cruel decision that had to be made.”
“His mastery of the hard-luck story was of a kind never achieved by persons not wholly concentrated on themselves.”
“Speaking about time’s relentless passage, Powell’s narrator compares certain stages of experience to the game of Russian Billiards as once he used to play it with a long vanished girlfriend. A game in which, he says,
“...at the termination of a given passage of time...the hidden gate goes down...and all scoring is doubled. This is perhaps an image of how we live. For reasons not always at the time explicable, there are specific occasions when events begin suddenly to take on a significance previously unsuspected; so that before we really know where we are, life seems to have begun in earnest at last, and we ourselves, scarcely aware that any change has taken place, are careering uncontrollably down the slippery avenues of eternity."
“There is always an element of unreality, perhaps even of slight absurdity, about someone you love.”
“If certain individuals fall in love from motives of convenience, they can be contrasted with plenty of others in whom passion seems principally aroused by the intensity of administrative difficulties in procuring its satisfaction.”
“I was relieved to find her attitude to myself suggested nothing more hostile than complete indifference.”
“There is always a real and an imaginary person you are in love with; sometimes you love one best, sometimes the other.”
“There is a strong disposition in youth, from which some individuals never escape, to suppose that everyone else is having a more enjoyable time than we are ourselves;”
“On most of the occasions when I visited the Ufford, halls and reception rooms were so utterly deserted that the interior might almost have been Uncle Giles's private residence. Had he been a rich bachelor, instead of a poor one, he would probably have lived in a house of just that sort: bare: anonymous: old-fashioned: draughty: with heavy mahogany cabinets and sideboards spaced out at intervals in passages and on landings; nothing that could possibly commit him to any specific opinion, beyond general disapproval of the way the world was run.”
“...in those days children were rather out of fashion.”
“In the break-up of a marriage the world inclines to take the side of the partner with most vitality, rather than the one apparently least to blame.”
“Stringham said: 'If you're not careful you will suffer the awful fate of the man who always knows the right clothes to wear and the right shop to buy them at.”
“Widmerpool had tidied himself up a little since leaving school, though there was still a kind of exotic drabness about his appearance that seemed to mark him out from the rest of mankind.”
“He [Widmerpool] moistened his lips, though scarcely perceptibly. I thought his mixture of secretiveness and curiosity quite intolerable.”
“This ideal conception―that one should have an aim in life―had, indeed, only too often occurred to me as an unsolved problem; but I was still far from deciding what form my endeavours should ultimately take.”
“Wisdom is the power to admit that you cannot understand and judge the people in their entirety.”
“Anyway, what can one do here? I am seriously thinking of running away and joining the Foreign Legion or the North-West Mounted Police—whichever work the shorter hours.”
“The score is still Q to 12!”
“The dilapidation was not a memory but a representation of a poorly remembered past.”
“Savoir simplement que tu es là quelque part sur cette terre sera, dans mon enfer, mon petit coin de paradis.”
“I don't do this," he continued. "I don't get involved. But I've never wanted anyone as much as I want you. It started out as chemistry, pure sexual attraction. I don't even know what to call it. But it's different now. It's bigger and I can't control it and I can't not be with you.”
“Grief was dagger-shaped and sharp and pointed inward. It was made of fresh loss and old sorrow. Rendered and forged and sometimes polished. Irene Finney had taken her daughter’s death and to that sorrow she’d added a long life of entitlement and disappointment, of privilege and pride. And the dagger she’d fashioned was taking a brief break from slashing her insides, and was now pointed outward.”
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