Gerald Durrell · 273 pages
Rating: (26.6K votes)
“I do wish you wouldn't argue with me when I'm knitting.”
“I said I *liked* being half-educated; you were so much more *surprised* at everything when you were ignorant.”
“My childhood in Corfu shaped my life. If I had the craft of Merlin, I would give every child the gift of my childhood.”
“'All we need is a book,' roared Leslie; 'don't panic, hit 'em with a book.”
“Each day had a tranquility a timelessness about it so that you wished it would never end. But then the dark skin of the night would peel off and there would be a fresh day waiting for us glossy and colorful as a child's transfer and with the same tinge of unreality.”
“Tea would arrive, the cakes squatting on cushions of cream, toast in a melting shawl of butter, cups agleam and a faint wisp of steam rising from the teapot shawl.”
“Gradually the magic of the island [Corfu] settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen.”
“They were maps that lived, maps that one could study, frown over, and add to; maps, in short, that really meant something.”
“It's all your fault, Mother,' said Larry austerely; 'you shouldn't have brought us up to be so selfish.' 'I like that!' exclaimed Mother. 'I never did anything of the sort!' 'Well, we didn't get as selfish as this without some guidance,' said Larry.”
“I have attempted to draw an accurate and unexaggerated picture of my family in the following pages; they appear as I saw them. To explain some of their more curious ways, however, I feel that I should state that at the time we were in Corfu the family were all quite young: Larry, the eldest, was 23; Leslie was 19; Margo was 18; while I was the youngest, being of the tender and impressionble age of 10. We had never been certain of my mother's age for the simple reason she could never remember her date of birth; all I can say is she was old enough to have four children. My mother also insists that I explain that she is a widow for, as she so penetratingly observed, you never know what people might think.”
“I can't be expected to produce deathless prose in an atmosphere of gloom and eucalyptus.”
“Les, muttering wrathfully, hauled the bedclothes off the recumbent Larry and used them to smother the flames. Larry sat up indignantly.
'What the the hell is going on?' he demanded.
'The room is on fire, dear.'
'Well, I don't see why I should freeze to death... why tear all the bedclothes off? Really, the fuss you all make. It's quite simple to put out a fire.'
'Oh, shut up!' snapped Leslie, jumping up and down on the bedclothes.”
“Why keep in touch with them? That's what I want to know,' asked Larry despairingly. 'What satisfaction does it give you? They're all either fossilized or mental.'
'Indeed, they're not mental,' said Mother indignantly.
'Nonsense, Mother... Look at Aunt Bertha, keeping flocks of imaginary cats... and there's Great-Uncle Patrick, who wanders about nude and tells complete strangers how he killed whales with a penknife...They're all bats.”
“What fools we are, eh? What fools, sitting here in the sun, singing. And of love, too! I am too old for it and you are too young, and yet we waste our time singing about it.
Ah, well, let's have a glass of wine, eh?”
“He glanced about him to make sure we weren't overheard, leaned forward, and whispered, 'He collects stamps.'
The family looked bewildered.
'You mean he's a philatelist?' said Larry at length.
'No, no, Master Larrys,' said Spiro. 'He's not one of them. He's a married man and he's gots two childrens.”
“We stared at the odd garment and wondered what it was for. 'What is it?' asked Larry at length. 'It's a bathing costume, of course,' said Mother. 'What on earth did you think it was?' 'It looks like a badly skinned whale,' said Larry, peering at it closely.”
“At length the Turk turned to Larry:
'You write, I believe?' he said with complete lack of interest.
Larry's eyes glittered. Mother, seeing the danger signs, rushed in quickly before he could reply.
'Yes, yes' she smiled, 'he writes away, day after day. Always tapping at the typewriter'
'I always feel that I could write superbly if I tried' remarked the Turk.
'Really?' said Mother. 'Yes, well, it's a gift I suppose, like so many things.'
'He swims well' remarked Margo, 'and he goes out terribly far'
'I have no fear' said the Turk modestly. 'I am a superb swimmer, so I have no fear. When I ride the horse, I have no fear, for I ride superbly. I can sail the boat magnificently in the typhoon without fear'
He sipped his tea delicately, regarding our awestruck faces with approval.
'You see' he went on, in case we had missed the point, 'you see, I am not a fearful man.”
“Breakfast was, on the whole, a leisurely and silent meal, for no member of the family was very talkative at that hour. By the end of the meal the influence of the coffee, toast, and eggs made itself felt, and we started to revive, to tell each other what we intended to do, why we intended to do it, and then argue earnestly as to whether each had made a wise decision.”
“Theodore had an apparently inexhaustible fund of knowledge about everything, but he imparted this knowledge with a sort of meticulous diffidence that made you feel he was not so much teaching you something new, as reminding you of something which you were already aware of, but which had, for some reason or other, slipped your mind.”
“The owls appeared now, drifting from tree to tree as silently as flakes of soot, hooting in astonishment as the moon rose higher and higher, turning to pink, then gold, and finally riding in a nest of stars, like a silver bubble.”
“The gold and scarlet leaves that littered the countryside in great drifts whispered and chuckled among themselves, or took experimental runs from place to place, rolling like coloured hoops among the trees. It was as if they were practising something, preparing for something, and they would discuss it excitedly in rustly voices as they crowded round the tree trunks.”
“Overflowing with the milk of human kindness, the family had invited everyone they could think of, including people they cordially disliked.”
“Among the myrtles the mantids moved, lightly, carefully, swaying slightly, the quintessence of evil. They were lank and green, with chinless faces and monstrous globular eyes, frosty gold, with an expression of intense, predatory madness in them. The crooked arms, with their fringes of sharp teeth, would be raised in mock supplication to the insect world, so humble, so fervent, trembling slightly when a butterfly flew too close.”
“There is a pleasure sure
In being mad, which none but madmen know.
Dryden, The Spanish Friar II, i”
“The sea was smooth, warm and as dark as black velvet, not a ripple disturbing the surface. The distant coastline of Albania was dimly outlined by a faint reddish glow in the sky. Gradually, minute by minute, this faint glow deepened and grew brighter, spreading across the sky. Then suddenly the moon, enormous, wine-red, edged herself over the fretted battlement of mountains, and threw a straight blood-red path across the dark sea. The owls appeared now, drifting from tree to tree as silently as flakes of soot, hooting in astonishment as the moon rose higher and higher, turning to pink, then gold, and finally riding in a nest of stars, like a silver bubble.”
“The Daffodil-Yellow Villa
The new villa was enormous, a tall, square Venetian mansion, with faded daffodil-yellow walls, green shutters, and a fox-red roof. It stood on a hill overlooking the sea, surrounded by unkempt olive groves and silent orchards of lemon and orange trees.
... the little walled and sunken garden that ran along one side of the house, its wrought-iron gates scabby with rust, had roses, anemones and geraniums sprawling across the weed-grown paths ...
... there were fifteen acres of garden to explore, a vast new paradise sloping down to the shallow, tepid sea.”
“Aspirin is so good for roses, brandy for sweet peas, and a squeeze of lemon-juice for the fleshy flowers, like begonias.”
“Ah, you may sit under them, yes. They cast a good shadow, cold as well-water; but that's the trouble, they tempt you to sleep. And you must never, for any reason, sleep beneath a cypress.' He paused, stroked his moustache, waited for me to ask why, and then went on: 'Why? Why? Because if you did you would be changed when you woke. Yes, the black cypresses, they are dangerous. While you sleep, their roots grow into your brains and steal them, and when you wake up you are mad, head as empty as a whistle.' I asked whether it was only the cypress that could do that or did it apply to other trees. 'No, only the cypress,' said the old man, peering up fiercely at the trees above me as though to see whether they were listening; 'only the cypress is the thief of intelligence. So be warned, little lord, and don't sleep here.”
“Sometimes the fresh load of guests would turn up before we had got rid of the previous group, and the chaos was indescribable; the house and garden would be dotted with poets, authors, artists, and playwrights arguing, painting, drinking, typing, and composing. Far from being the ordinary, charming people that Larry had promised, they all turned out to be the most extraordinary eccentrics who were so highbrow that they had difficulty in understanding one another.”
“Larry was always full of ideas about things of which he had no experience.”
“Your father's an asshole. It's not a disease. You don't have to catch it.”
“When I turn around, he cups my face in his hands and he kisses me so deeply that I don't know who is breathing for who, but his mouth and tongue taste like warm honey. I don't know how long it lasts, but when I let go of him, I miss it already.”
“Perhaps that’s why I find myself looking backward. The past has a clarity I can no longer see in the present.”
“Everything frightens me, and it's well that it does. Fear is a good friend to the hunted, it's kept me alive this long. The dead are fearless, and I don't care to join them.”
“Don't Seek Happiness. If you seek it, you won't find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness”
BookQuoters is a community of passionate readers who enjoy sharing the most meaningful, memorable and interesting quotes from great books. As the world communicates more and more via texts, memes and sound bytes, short but profound quotes from books have become more relevant and important. For some of us a quote becomes a mantra, a goal or a philosophy by which we live. For all of us, quotes are a great way to remember a book and to carry with us the author’s best ideas.
We thoughtfully gather quotes from our favorite books, both classic and current, and choose the ones that are most thought-provoking. Each quote represents a book that is interesting, well written and has potential to enhance the reader’s life. We also accept submissions from our visitors and will select the quotes we feel are most appealing to the BookQuoters community.
Founded in 2018, BookQuoters has quickly become a large and vibrant community of people who share an affinity for books. Books are seen by some as a throwback to a previous world; conversely, gleaning the main ideas of a book via a quote or a quick summary is typical of the Information Age but is a habit disdained by some diehard readers. We feel that we have the best of both worlds at BookQuoters; we read books cover-to-cover but offer you some of the highlights. We hope you’ll join us.