Anthony Powell · 715 pages
Rating: (1.2K votes)
“She glided away towards the lift, which seemed hardly needed, with its earthly and mechanical paraphernalia, to bear her up to the higher levels.”
“In fact, she [Pamela Flitton] seemed to prefer 'older men' on the whole, possibly because of their potentiality for deeper suffering. Young men might superficially transcend their seniors in this respect, but they probably showed less endurance in sustaining that state, while, once pinioned, the middle-aged could be made to writhe almost indefinitely.”
“In the seven years or so that had passed since I had last seen him, Sir Magnus Donners had grown not so much older in appearance, as less like a human being.”
“There could be no doubt, so I was finally forced to decide, that the longer one dealt with them, the more one developed the habit of treating generals like members of the opposite sex; specifically, like ladies no longer young, who therefore deserve extra courtesy and attention; indeed, whose every whim must be given thought.”
“Jeavon's thick dark hair, with its ridges of corkscrew curls, had now turned quite white, the Charlie Chaplin moustache remaining black. This combination of tones for some reason gave him an oddly Italian appearance, enhanced by blue overalls, obscurely suggesting a railway porter at a station in Italy.”
“Esteem for the army - never in this country regarded, in the continental manner, as a popular expression of the national will - implies a kind of innocence.”
“The army is at once the worst place for egoists, and the best.”
“That was a good straightforward point of view, no pretence that games were anything but an outlet for power and aggression; no stuff about their being enjoyable as such. You played a game to demonstrate that you did it better than someone else. If it came to that, I thought how few people do anything for its own sake, from making love to practising the arts.”
“Bring a torch, if you've got one. It's as dark as hell and stinks of something far worse than cheese.”
“Entering the front door, you were at once assailed by a nightmare of cheerlessness and squalor, all the sordid melancholy, at its worst, of any nest of bedrooms where only men sleep;”
“His woolly grey hair, short thick body, air of perpetual busyness, suggested an industrious gnome conscripted into the service of the army; a gnome who also liked to practise considerable malice against the race of men with whom he mingled, by making as complicated as possible every transaction they had to execute through himself.”
“Short, square, cleanshaven, his head seemed carved out of an elephant's tusk, the whole massive cone of ivory left more or less complete in its original shape, eyes hollowed out deep in the roots, the rest of the protuberance accommodating his other features, terminating in a perfectly colossal nose that stretched directly forward from the totally bald cranium. The nose was preposterous, grotesque, slapstick, a mask from a Goldoni comedy.”
“There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting.”
“Crooks stood up from his bunk and faced her. "I had enough," he said coldly. "You got no rights comin' in a colored man's room. You got no rights messing around in here at all. Now you jus' get out, an' get out quick. If you don't, I'm gonna ast the boss not to ever let you come in the barn no more."
She turned on him in scorn. "Listen, Nigger," she said. "You know what I can do to you if you open your trap?"
Crooks stared helplessly at her, and then he sat down on his bunk and drew into himself.
She closed on him. "You know what I could do?"
Crooks seemed to grow smaller, and he pressed himself against the wall. "Yes, ma'am."
"Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain't even funny."
Crooks had reduced himself to nothing. There was no personality, no ego--nothing to arouse either like or dislike. He said, "Yes, ma'am," and his voice was toneless.
For a moment she stood over him as though waiting for him to move so that she could whip at him again; but Crooks sat perfectly still, his eyes averted, everything that might be hurt drawn in. She turned at last to the other two.”
“I want you to believe...to believe in things that you cannot.”
“One of the principal functions of a friend is to suffer (in a milder and symbolic form) the punishments that we should like, but are unable, to inflict upon our enemies.”
“On rainy afternoons, embroidering with a group of friends on the begonia porch, she would lose the thread of the conversation and a tear of nostalgia would salt her palate when she saw the strips of damp earth and the piles of mud that the earthworms had pushed up in the garden. Those secret tastes, defeated in the past by oranges and rhubarb, broke out into an irrepressible urge when she began to weep. She went back to eating earth. The first time she did it almost out of curiosity, sure that the bad taste would be the best cure for the temptation. And, in fact, she could not bear the earth in her mouth. But she persevered, overcome by the growing anxiety, and little by little she was getting back her ancestral appetite, the taste of primary minerals, the unbridled satisfaction of what was the original food. She would put handfuls of earth in her pockets, and ate them in small bits without being seen, with a confused feeling of pleasure and rage, as she instructed her girl friends in the most difficult needlepoint and spoke about other men, who did not deserve the sacrifice of having one eat the whitewash on the walls because of them. The handfuls of earth made the only man who deserved that show of degradation less remote and more certain, as if the ground that he walked on with his fine patent leather boots in another part of the world were transmitting to her the weight and the temperature of his blood in a mineral savor that left a harsh aftertaste in her mouth and a sediment of peace in her heart.”
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