Richard Flanagan · 467 pages
Rating: (38.3K votes)
“A good book ... leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul.”
“A happy man has no past, while an unhappy man has nothing else.”
“There are words and words and none mean anything. And then one sentence means everything.”
“He believed books had an aura that protected him, that without one beside him he would die. He happily slept without women. He never slept without a book.”
“The path to survival was to never give up on the small things.”
“In trying to escape the fatality of memory, he discovered with an immense sadness that pursuing the past inevitably only leads to greater loss.”
“Virtue was vanity dressed up and waiting for applause.”
“A good book, he had concluded, leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul. Such books were for him rare and, as he aged, rarer. Still he searched, one more Ithaca for which he was forever bound.”
“Horror can be contained within a book, given form and meaning. But in life horror has no more form than it does meaning. Horror just is. And while it reigns, it is as if there is nothing in the universe that it is not.”
“And his life was now, he felt, one monumental unreality, in which everything that did not matter - professional ambitions, the private pursuit of status, the colour of wallpaper, the size of an office or the matter of a dedicated car parking space - was treated with the greatest significance, and everything that did matter - pleasure, joy, friendship, loved - was deemed somehow peripheral.”
“He loved his family. But he was not proud of them. Their principal achievement was survival. It would take him a lifetime to appreciate what an achievement that was.”
“She was full of yearning. To leave, to be someone else, somewhere else, to start moving and never stop. And yet the more the innermost part of her screamed to move, the more she recognised that she was frozen to one place, one life.”
“For the world did not change, this violence had always existed and would never be eradicated, men would die under the boot and fists and horror of other men until the end of time, and all human history was a history of violence.”
“No one makes love like they make a wall or a house. They catch it like a cold. It makes them miserable and then it passes, and pretending otherwise is the road to hell.”
“Feeling became fashionable and emotion became a theatre in which people were players who no longer knew who they were off the stage.”
“We remember nothing. Maybe for a year or two. Maybe most of a life, if we live. Maybe. But then we will die, and who will ever understand any of this? And maybe we remember nothing most of all when we put our hands on our hearts and carry on about not forgetting.”
“How empty is the world when you lose the one you love”
“He pulled out a book here and there, but what kept catching his attention were the diagonal tunnels of sunlight rolling in through the dormer windows. All around him dust motes rose and fell, shimmering, quivering in those shafts of roiling light. He found several shelves full of old editions of classical writers and began vaguely browsing, hoping to find a cheap edition of Virgil's Aeneid, which he had only ever read in a borrowed copy. It wasn't really the great poem of antiquity that Dorrigo Evans wanted though, but the aura he felt around such books--an aura that both radiated outwards and took him inwards to another world that said to him that he was not alone.
And this sense, this feeling of communion, would at moments overwhelm him. At such times he had the sensation that there was only one book in the universe, and that all books were simply portals into this greater ongoing work--an inexhaustible, beautiful world that was not imaginary but the world as it truly was, a book without beginning or end.”
“He thought of how the world organises its affairs so that civilisation every day commits crimes for which any individual would be imprisoned for life. And how people accept this either by ignoring it and calling it current affairs or politics or wars,”
“The God way. Talking about God this and God that. Fuck God, he had actually wanted to say. Fuck God for having made this world, fucked be his name, now and for fucking ever, fuck God for our lives, fuck God for not saving us, fuck God for not being here and for not saving the men burning on the fucking bamboo.”
“It's only our faith in illusions that makes life possible. It's believing in reality that does us in every time.”
“And in the deepest recesses of his being, Dorrigo Evans understood that all his life had been a journeying to this point when he had for a moment flown into the sun and would now be journeying away from it forever after.”
“It was a fabled railway that was the issue of desperation and fanaticism, made as much of myth and unreality as it was to be of wood and iron and the thousands upon thousands of lives that were to be laid down over the next year to build it. But what reality was ever made by realists?”
“Amy, amante, amour, he whispered, as if the words themselves were smuts of ash rising and falling, as though the candle were the story of his life and she the flame. He lay down in his haphazard cot. After a time he found and opened a book he had been reading that he had expected to end well, a romance which he wanted to end well, with the hero and heroine finding love, with peace and joy and redemption and understanding. Love is two bodies with one soul, he read, and turned the page. But there was nothing—the final pages had been ripped away and used as toilet paper or smoked, and there was no hope or joy or understanding. There was no last page. The book of his life just broke off. There was only the mud below him and the filthy sky above. There was to be no peace and no hope. And Dorrigo Evans understood that the love story would go on forever and ever, world without end. He would live in hell, because love is that also.”
“Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”
“She took a puff, put the cigarette in the ashtray and stared at it. Without looking up, she said, But do you believe in love, Mr Evans? She rolled the cigarette end around in the ash tray. Do you? Outside, he thought, beyond this mountain and its snow, there was a world of countless millions of people. He could see them in their cities, in the heat and the light. And he could see this house, so remote and isolated, so far away, and he had a feeling that it once must have seemed to her and Jack, if only for a short time, like the universe with the two of them at its centre. And for a moment he was at the King of Cornwall with Amy in the room they thought of as theirs—with the sea and the sun and the shadows, with the white paint flaking off the French doors and with their rusty lock, with the breezes late of an afternoon and of a night the sound of the waves breaking—and he remembered how that too had once seemed the centre of the universe. I don’t, she said. No, I don’t. It’s too small a word, don’t you think, Mr Evans? I have a friend in Fern Tree who teaches piano. Very musical, she is. I’m tone-deaf myself. But one day she was telling me how every room has a note. You just have to find it. She started warbling away, up and down. And suddenly one note came back to us, just bounced back off the walls and rose from the floor and filled the place with this perfect hum. This beautiful sound. Like you’ve thrown a plum and an orchard comes back at you. You wouldn’t believe it, Mr Evans. These two completely different things, a note and a room, finding each other. It sounded … right. Am I being ridiculous? Do you think that’s what we mean by love, Mr Evans? The note that comes back to you? That finds you even when you don’t want to be found? That one day you find someone, and everything they are comes back to you in a strange way that hums? That fits. That’s beautiful. I’m not explaining myself at all well, am I? she said. I’m not very good with words. But that’s what we were. Jack and me. We didn’t really know each other. I’m not sure if I liked everything about him. I suppose some things about me annoyed him. But I was that room and he was that note and now he’s gone. And everything is silent.”
“A good book, he had concluded, leaves you wanting to reread the book. A great book compels you to reread your own soul.”
“He could never admit to himself that it was death that had given his life meaning.”
“To have been part of a Pharaonic slave system that had at its apex a divine sun king led him to understand unreality as the greatest force in life. And his life was now, he felt, one monumental unreality, in which everything that did not matter—professional ambitions, the private pursuit of status, the colour of wallpaper, the size of an office or the matter of a dedicated car parking space—was vested with the greatest significance, and everything that did matter—pleasure, joy, friendship, love—was deemed somehow peripheral. It made for dullness mostly and weirdness generally.”
“I wrote. Something. Yes.
And you were truthful.
You weren't truthful?
I was accurate.”
“We are the only species on earth that not only refuses to give up milk but furthermore insists on drinking the milk of another species. No adult cows ever drink milk, and adult humans are certainly not meant to be drinking it, either! As is always the case, when we go against nature’s laws, we suffer the consequences.”
“Me too, Arch,” Jeremiah said. “I want an answer about my request to transfer. Even now, my balls are shrinking in anticipation of going back out in the cold. I said I'd give my life protecting humanity, but my balls were never in the bargain.”
“Either you're born crazy or you're born boring.”
“In the realm of the unknown, difficulties must be viewed as a hidden treasure! Usually, the more difficult, the better. It's not as valuable if your difficulties stem from your own inner struggle. But when difficulties arise out of increasing objective resistance, that's marvelous!”
“Just as Morse code provides a good introduction to the nature of codes, the telegraph provides a good introduction to the hardware of the computer.”
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.