‘But the mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof: calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm. There is no steady, unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed graduations, and at the last one pause…’
‘Wrong was right and right was wrong, and everything was made of paper: sentences, pardons, pleas, bad records, demerits, proof of guilt, but never, it seemed, proof of innocence. If there were no paper, Carter felt, the entire judicial system would collapse and disappear.'
'For this is the truth about our soul, he thought, our self, who fish-like inhabits deep seas and plies among obscurities threading her way between the boles of giant weeds, over sun-flickered spaces and on and on into gloom, cold, deep, inscrutable; suddenly she shoots to the surface and sports on the wind-winkled waves; that is, has a positive need to brush, scrape, kindle herself, gossiping.'
'This morning, the bowl of hot cooked cornmeal, set under a transparent plate and left there, has covered the underside of the plate with droplets of condensation: it, too, is taking action in its own little way.'
‘But, when nothing subsists of an old past, after the death of people, after the destruction of things, alone, frailer but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, smell and taste still remain for a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, on the ruin of all the rest, bearing without giving way, on their almost impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory.'
‘Nobody ever died of a feeling, he would say to himself, not believing a word of it, as he sweated his way though the feeling that he was dying of fear. People died of feelings all the time, once they had one through the formality of materialising them into bullets and bottles and tumours.'
'Only when he could hold in balance his hatred and his stunted love, looking on his father with neither pity nor terror but as another human being who had not handled his personality especially well; only when he could live with the ambivalence of never forgiving his father for his crimes but allowing himself to be touched by the unhappiness that had produced them as well as the unhappiness they had produced, could he be released, perhaps, into a new life that would enable him to live instead of merely surviving. He might even enjoy himself.'
'Patrick looked down the avenue. It was like the opening shot of a documentary on overpopulation. He walked down the street, imaging the severed heads of passers-by rolling into the gutter in his wake.'