“It was not just the drink, though, that was making me happy, but the tenderness of things, the simple goodness of the world. This sunset, for instance, how lavishly it was laid on, the clouds, the light on the sea, that heartbreaking, blue-green distance, laid on, all of it, as if to console some lost suffering waybarer. I have never really got used to being on this earth. Somethings I think our presence here is due to a cosmic blunder, that we were meant for another planet altogether, with other arrangements, and other laws, and other, grimmer skies. I try to imagine it, our true place, off on the far side of the galaxy, whirling and whirling. And the ones who were meant for here, are they out there, baffled and homesick, like us? No, they would have become extinct long ago. How could they survive, these gentle earthlings, in a world that was meant to contain us?”
“By the way, leafing through my dictionary I am struck by the poverty of language when it comes to naming or describing badness. Evil, wickedness, mischief, these words imply an agency, the conscious or at least active doing of wrong. They do not signify the bad in its inert, neutral, self-sustaining state. Then there are the adjectives: dreadful, heinous, execrable, vile, and so on. They are not so much as descriptive as judgmental. They carry a weight of censure mingled with fear. Is this not a queer state of affairs? It makes me wonder. I ask myself if perhaps the thing itself - badness - does not exist at all, if these strangely vague and imprecise words are only a kind of ruse, a kind of elaborate cover for the fact that nothing is there. Or perhaps words are an attempt to make it be there? Or, again, perhaps there is something, but the words invented it. Such considerations make me feel dizzy, as if a hole had opened briefly in the world.”
“Halfway up the drive there was
God these tedious details.
Halfway up there was a…”
“This is the only way another creature can be known: on the surface, that's where there is depth.”
“Oh, by the way, the plot: it almost slipped my mind. Charlie French bought my mother’s pictures cheap and sold them dear to Binkie Behrens, then bought them cheap from Binkie and sold them on to Max Molyneaux. Something like that. Does it matter? Dark deeds, dark deeds. Enough.”
“There is something about gin, the tang in it of the deep wildwood, perhaps, that always makes me think of twilight and mists and dead maidens. Tonight it tinkled in my mouth like secret laughter.”
“When I look back, no matter how hard I try I can see clear break between one phase and another. It is a seamless flow - although flow is too strong a word. More a sort of busy stasis, a sort of running on the spot. Even that was too fast for me, however, I was always a little way behind, trotting in the rear of my own life. In Dublin I was still the boy growing up at Coolgrange, in America I was the callow young man of Dublin days, on the islands I became a kind of American. And nothing was enough. Everything was coming, was on the way, was about to be. Stuck in the past, I was always peering beyond the present towards a limitless future. Now, I suppose, the future may be said to have arrived.”
“He made the mistake of imagining that his possessions were a measure of his own worth, and strutted and crowed, parading his things like a schoolboy with a champion catapult.”
“None of this means anything. Anything of significance, that is. I am just amusing myself, musing, losing myself in a welter of words. For words in here are a form of luxury, of sensuousness, they are all we have been allowed to keep of the rich, wasteful world from which we are shut away.”
“MY LORD, when you ask me to tell the court in my own words, this is what I shall say. I am kept locked up here like some exotic animal, last survivor of a species they had thought extinct. They should let in people to view me, the girl-eater, svelte and dangerous, padding to and fro in my cage, my terrible green glance flickering past the bars, give them something to dream about, tucked up cosy in their beds of a night. After my capture they clawed at each other to get a look at me. They would have paid money for the privilege, I believe. They shouted abuse, and shook their fists at me, showing their teeth. It was unreal, somehow, frightening yet comic, the sight of them there, milling on the pavement like film extras, young men in cheap raincoats, and women with shopping bags, and one or two silent, grizzled characters who just stood, fixed on me hungrily, haggard with envy. Then a guard threw a blanket over my head and bundled me into a squad car. I laughed. There was something irresistibly funny in the way reality, banal as ever, was fulfilling my worst fantasies.”
“The daylight too is strange, even outside, in the yard, as if something has happened to it, as if something has been done to it, before it is allowed to reach us. It has an acid, lemony cast, and comes in two intensities: either it is not enough to see by or it sears the sight. Of the various kinds of darkness I shall not speak.”
“Vielleicht gab es nicht mal einen Regenbogen, geschweige denn einen Topf mit Gold.”
“A man’s first duty is to keep himself alive. Then comes what everyone calls honor.”
“Come now, no use wastin sunshine.”
“The horrors of the Inquisition are nothing compared to the fates your mind can imagine for your loved ones.”
“You say you hate me, yet, you use me to stop hurting.”
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