Quotes from Surfacing

Margaret Atwood ·  199 pages

Rating: (18K votes)


“Stupidity is the same as evil if you judge by the results.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“They will not let you have peace, they don't want you to have anything they don't have themselves.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“Madness is only an amplification of what you already are.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“This above all, to refuse to be a victim. Unless I can do that I can do nothing.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“I would rather dance as a ballerina, though faultily, than as a flawless clown.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing



“The animals have no need for speech, why talk when you are a word.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“it's doors I'm afraid of because I can't see through them, its the door opening by itself in the wind I'm afraid of.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“There's more than one way to skin a cat, my father used to say; it bothered me, I didn't see why they would want to skin a cat even one way.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“We battled in secret, undeclared, and after a while I no longer fought back because I never won. The only defense was flight, invisibility.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“Anything that suffers and dies instead of us is Christ; if they didn't kill birds and fish they would have killed us. The animals die that we may live, they are substitute people, hunters in the fall killing the deer, that is Christ also. And we eat them, out of cans or otherwise; we are eaters of death, dead Christ-flesh resurrecting inside us, granting us life. Canned Spam, canned Jesus, even the plants must be Christ.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing



“When you can't tell the difference between your own pleasure and your pain then you're an addict.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“Being socially retarded is like being mentally retarded, it arouses in others disgust and pity and the desire to torment and reform.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“From any rational point of view I am absurd; but there are no longer any rational points of view.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“Language divides us into fragments, I wanted to be whole.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“...that's what Hiltler exemplified: not the triumph of evil but the failure of reason.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing



“A divorce is like an amputation, you survive but there's less of you.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“She must have heard the door opening and closing in the middle of the night; she produces a smile, warm, conspiratorial, and I know what circuits are closing in her head: by screwing Joe she's brought us back together. Saving the world, everyone wants to; men think they can do it with guns, women with their bodies, love conquers all, conquerors love all, mirages raised by words.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“speech to him was a task, a battle, words mustered behind his beard and issued one at a time, heavy and square like tanks.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“The trouble is all in the knob at the top of our bodies. I’m not against the body or the head either: only the neck, which creates the illusion that they are separate. The language is wrong, it shouldn’t have different words for them. If the head extended directly into the shoulders like a worm’s or a frog’s without that constriction, that lie, they wouldn’t be able to look down at their bodies and move them around as if they were robots or puppets; they would have to realize that if the head is detached from the body both of them will die.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“The heart with letters on it shining like a light bulb through the trim hole painted in the chest, art history.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing



“Second-hand American was spreading over him in patches, like mange or lichen. He was infested, garbled, and I couldn't help him: it would take such time to heal, unearth him, scrape down to where he was true.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“From her handbag she takes a round gilt compact with violets on the cover. She opens it, unclosing her other self, and runs her fingertip around the corners of her mouth, left one, right one; then she unswivels a pink stick and dots her cheeks and blends them, changing her shape, performing the only magic left to her.

Rump on a packsack, harem cushion, pink on the cheeks and black discreetly around the eyes, as red as blood as black as ebony, a seamed and folded imitation of a magazine picture that is itself an imitation of a woman who is also an imitation, the original nowhere, hairless lobed angel in the same heaven where God is a circle, captive princess in someone's head. She is locked in, she isn't allowed to eat or shit or cry or give birth, nothing goes in, nothing comes out. She takes her clothes off or puts them on, paper doll wardrobe, she copulates under strobe lights with the man's torso while his brain watches from its glassed-in control cubicle at the other end of the room, her face twists into poses of exultation and total abandonment, that is all. She is not bored, she has no other interests.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“The trouble some people have being German, I thought, I have being human. In a way it was stupid to be more disturbed by a dead bird than by those other things, the wars and riots and the massacres in the newspapers. But for the wars and riots there was always an explanation, people wrote books about them saying why they happened: the death of the heron was causeless, undiluted.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“He thought of it as a contest, like the children at school who would twist your arm and say Give in? Give in? until you did; then they would let go. He didn't love me, it was an idea of himself he loved and he wanted someone to join him, anyone would do, I didn't matter so I didn't have to care.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“I leafed through all the men I had known to see whether or not I hated them. But then I realized it wasn't the men I hated, it was the Americans, the human beings, men and women both. They'd had their chance but they had turned against the gods, and it was time for me to choose sides. I wanted there to be a machine that could make them vanish, a button I could press that would evaporate them without disturbing anything else, that way there would be more room for the animals, they would be rescued.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing



“You all right?" he said again.
I didn't love him, I was far away from him, it was as though I was seeing him through a smeared window or glossy paper; he didn't belong here. But he existed, he deserved to be alive. I was wishing I could tell him how to change so he could get there, the place where I was.
"Yes," I said. I touched him on the arm with my hand. My hand touched his arm. Hand touched arm. Language divides us into fragments, I wanted to be whole.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“Do you love me, that's all," he said. "That's the only thing that matters."
It was the language again, I couldn't use it because it wasn't mine. He must have known what he meant but it was an imprecise word; the Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them, there ought to be as many for love.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


“His drawings were not originals then, only copies. He must have been doing them as a sort of retirement hobby, he was an incurable amateur and enthusiast; if he'd become hooked (on these rock paintings) he would have combed the area for them, collecting them with his camera, pestering experts by letter whenever he found one; an old man's delusion of usefulness.”
― Margaret Atwood, quote from Surfacing


About the author

Margaret Atwood
Born place: in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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