What's terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don't need love when you do, or you like your work when you know quite well you're capable of better.
Listen Anna, if we don’t believe the things we put on our agendas will come true for us, then there’s no hope for us. We’re going to be saved by what we seriously put on our agendas.
Novels give you the matrix of emotions, give you the flavour of a time in a way formal history cannot.
I don't know much about creative writing programs. But they're not telling the truth if they don't teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.
I write all these remarks with exactly the same feeling as if I were writing a letter to post into the distant past: I am so sure that everything we now take for granted is going to be utterly swept away in the next decade. ...)
This is an inevitable and easily recognizable stage in every revolutionary movement: reformers must expect to be disowned by those who are only too happy to enjoy what has been won for them.
Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: 'You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.
As in the political sphere, the child is taught that he is free, a democrat, with a free will and a free mind, lives in a free country, makes his own decisions. At the same time he is a prisoner of the assumptions and dogmas of his time, which he does not question, because he has never been told they exist. By the time a young person has reached the age when he has to choose (we still take it for granted that a choice is inevitable) between the arts and the sciences, he often chooses the arts because he feels that here is humanity, freedom, choice. He does not know that he is already moulded by a system: he does not know that the choice itself is the result of a false dichotomy rooted in the heart of our culture. Those who do sense this, and who don't wish to subject themselves to further moulding, tend to leave, in a half-unconscious, instinctive attempt to find work where they won't be divided against themselves. With all our institutions, from the police force to academia, from medicine to politics, we give little attention to the people who leave—that process of elimination that goes on all the time and which excludes, very early, those likely to be original and reforming, leaving those attracted to a thing because that is what they are already like. A young policeman leaves the Force saying he doesn't like what he has to do. A young teacher leaves teaching, here idealism snubbed. This social mechanism goes almost unnoticed—yet it is as powerful as any in keeping our institutions rigid and oppressive.
But there is no doubt that to attempt a novel of ideas is to give oneself a handicap: the parochialism of our culture is intense. For instance, decade after decade bright young men and women emerge from their universities able to say proudly: 'Of course I know nothing about German literature.' It is the mode. The Victorians knew everything about German literature, but were able with a clear conscience not to know much about the French.
I don’t want to be told when I wake up, terrified by a dream of total annihilation, because of the H-bomb exploding, that people felt that way about the cross-bow. It isn’t true. There is something new in the world. And I don’t want to hear, when I’ve had an encounter with some mogul in the film industry, who wields the kind of power over men’s minds that no emperor ever did, and I come back feeling trampled on all over, that Lesbia felt like that after an encounter with her wine-merchant. And I don’t want to be told when I suddenly have a vision (though God knows it’s hard enough to come by) of a life that isn’t full of hatred and fear and envy and competition every minute of the night and the day that this is simply the old dream of the golden age brought up to date …
As I was saying, that’s the dark secret of our time, no one mentions it, but every time one opens a door one is greeted by a shrill, desperate and inaudible scream.
What a luxury a cat is, the moments of shocking and startling pleasure in a day, the feel of the beast, the soft sleekness under your palm, the warmth when you wake on a cold night, the grace and charm even in a quite ordinary workaday puss. Cat walks across your room, and in that lonely stalk you see leopard or even panther, or it turns its head to acknowledge you and the yellow blaze of those eyes tells you what an exotic visitor you have here, in this household friend, the cat who purrs as you stroke, or rub his chin, or scratch his head.
With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates. It is the most democratic of institutions because no one - but no one at all - can tell you what to read and when and how.
Sometimes I think the one form of experience people are incapable of learning from is the political experience.
Long ago I decided that at a political meeting the truth usually comes out in just such a speech or a remark ignored at the time because its tone is not that of the meeting. Humorous, or satirical, or even angry or bitter — yet it’s the truth, and all the long speeches and contributions are nonsense.
In fact I've reached the stage where I look at people and say - he or she, they are whole at all because they've chosen to block off at this stage or that. People stay sane by blocking off, by limiting themselves.
What I feel now doesn't matter at all? But at what point am I entitled to say to myself, what I am feeling now is valid? After all, Anna-' Here Tommy turned to face her: 'one can't go through one's whole life in phases. There must be a goal somewhere.' His eyes gleamed out hatred; and it was with difficulty that Anna said: 'If you're suggesting that I've reached a goal, and I'm judging you from some superior point, then it's not true.''Phases,' he insisted. 'Stages. Growing pains.''But I think that's how women see-people. Certainly their own children. In the first place, there's always been nine months of not knowing whether the baby would be a girl or a boy. Sometimes I wonder what Janet would have been like if she'd been born a boy. Don't you see! And then babies go through one stage after another, and then they are children. When a woman looks at a child she sees all the things he's been at the same time. When I look at Janet sometimes I see her as a small baby and I feel her inside my belly and I see her as various sizes of small girl, all at the same time.' Tommy's stare was accusing and sarcastic, but she persisted: 'That's how women see things. Everything in a sort of continuous creative stream-well, isn't it natural we should?
What is happening is something new in my life. I think many people have a sense of shape, of unfolding, in their lives. This sense makes it possible for them to say: Yes, this new person is important to me: he, or she, is the beginning of something I must live through. Or: This emotion, which I have not felt before, is not the alien I believed it to be. It will now be part of me and I must deal with it.It is easy now, looking back over my life to say: That Anna, in that time, was such and such a person. And then, five years later, she was such and such. A year, two years, five years of a certain kind of being can be rolled up and tucked away, or ‘named’ — yes, during that time I was like that. Well now I am in the middle of such a period, and when it is over I shall glance back at it casually and say: Yes, that’s what I was.
Over the plains of Ethiopia the sun rose as I had not seen it in seven years. A big, cool, empty sky flushed a little above a rim of dark mountains. The landscape 20,000 feet below gathered itself from the dark and showed a pale gleam of grass, a sheen of water. The red deepened and pulsed, radiating streaks of fire. There hung the sun, like a luminous spider's egg, or a white pearl, just below the rim of the mountains. Suddenly it swelled, turned red, roared over the horizon and drove up the sky like a train engine. I knew how far below in the swelling heat the birds were an orchestra in the trees about the villages of mud huts; how the long grass was straightening while dangling locks of dewdrops dwindled and dried; how the people were moving out into the fields about the business of herding and hoeing.
THE LILIESThis morning it was, on the pavement, When that smell hit me again And set the houses reeling. People passed like rain: (The way rain moves and advances over the hills) And it was hot, hot and dank, The smell like animals, strong, but sweet too. What was it? Something I had forgotten. I tried to remember, standing there, Sniffing the air on the pavement. Somehow I thought of flowers. Flowers! That bad smell! I looked: down lanes, past houses--There, behind a hoarding, A rubbish-heap, soft and wet and rotten. Then I remembered: After the rain, on the farm, The vlei that was dry and paler than a stone Suddenly turned wet and green and warm. The green was a clash of music. Dry Africa became a swamp And swamp-birds with long beaks Went humming and flashing over the reeds And cicadas shrilling like a train. I took off my clothes and waded into the water. Under my feet first grass, then mud, Then all squelch and water to my waist. A faint iridescence of decay, The heat swimming over the creeks Where the lilies grew that I wanted: Great lilies, white, with pink streaks That stood to their necks in the water. Armfuls I gathered, working there all day. With the green scum closing round my waist, The little frogs about my legs, And jelly-trails of frog-spawn round the stems. Once I saw a snake, drowsing on a stone, Letting his coils trail into the water. I expect he was glad of rain too After nine moinths of being dry as bark. I don't know why I picked those lilies, Piling them on the grass in heaps, For after an hour they blackened, stank. When I left at dark, Red and sore and stupid from the heat, Happy as if I'd built a town, All over the grass were rank Soft, decaying heaps of lilies And the flies over them like black flies on meat...
I was realizing something I should have known by using my intelligence, without ever having gone to their flat at all: that the ties between Nelson and his wife are bitterly close, and never to be broken in their lives. They are tied by the closest of all bonds, neurotic pain-giving; the experience of pain dealt and received; pain as an aspect of love; apprehended as a knowledge of what the world is, what growth is.Nelson is about to leave his wife; he will never leave her. She will wail at being rejected and abandoned; she does not know she will never be rejected.
But it isn’t only the terror everywhere, and the fear of being conscious of it, that freezes people. It’s more than that. People know they are in a society dead or dying. They are refusing emotion because at the end of every emotion are property, money, power. They work and despise their work, and so freeze themselves. They love but know that it’s a half-love or a twisted love, and so they freeze themselves.It is possible that in order to keep love, feeling, tenderness alive, it will be necessary to feel these emotions ambiguously, even for what is false and debased, or for what is still an idea, a shadow in the willed imagination only … or if what we feel is pain, then we must feel it, acknowledging that the alternative is death. Better anything than the shrewd, the calculated, the non-committal, the refusal of giving for fear of the consequences …
she was wishing that whatever stage of her life she was in now could be got through quickly, for it was seeing to her interminable. If life had to be looked at in terms of high moments. or peaks, then nothing had happened to her for a long time; snd she could look forward to nothing much but a dwindling away from full household activity into getting old
she was wishing that whatever stage of her life she ws in now could be got through quickly, for it was seeming to her interminable. If life had to be looked at in terms of high moments or peaks, then nothing had happened to her for a long time; and she could look forward to nothing but a dwindling away from full household activities and getting old.
It’s a small painful sort of courage which is at the root of every life, because injustice and cruelty is at the root of life. And the reason why I have only given my attention to the heroic or the beautiful or the intelligent is because I won’t accept that injustice and the cruelty, and so won’t accept the small endurance that is bigger than anything.
I’m not going to be like my mother. You’re maniacs. You’re mad.“Yes,” said Kate. “I know it. And so you won’t be. The best of luck to you. And what are you going to be instead?
Younger woman says, “I’m not going to be like my mother. You’re maniacs. You’re mad.”“Yes,” [older woman responds] “I know it. And so you won’t be. The best of luck to you. And what are you going to be instead?
Oh, I simply can’t think. When I really want to depress myself, I think of all the brilliant men I know, married to their stupid wives. Enough to break your heart, it really is
We stood, separated by space, certainly, in identical conditions of pleasant uncertainty and anticipation, and we both held our heart in our hands, all pink and palpitating and ready for pleasure and pain, and we were about to throw these hearts in each other's faces like snowballs, or cricket balls (How's that?) or, more accurately, like great bleeding wounds: Take my wound. Because the last thing one ever thinks at such moments is that he (or she) will say: Take my wound, please remove the spear from my side. No, not at all; one simply expects to get rid of one's one.
I am a person who continually destroys the possibilities of a future because of the numbers of alternative viewpoints I can focus on the present.
I write all these remarks with exactly the same feeling as if I were writing a letter to post into the distant past: I am so sure that everything we now take for granted is going to be utterly swept away in the next d
Do you know what people really want? Everyone, I mean. Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who'd be kind to me. That's what people really want, if they're telling the truth.
Loneliness, she thought, was craving for other people's company. But she did not know that loneliness can be an unnoticed cramping of the spirit for lack of companionship.
I stood looking down out of the window. The street seemed miles down. Suddenly I felt as if I'd flung myself out of the window. I could see myself lying on the pavement. Then I seemed to be standing by the body on the pavement. I was two people. Blood and brains were scattered everywhere. I knelt down and began licking up the blood and brains
We are all of us, to some degree or another, brainwashed by the society we live in. We are able to see this when we travel to another country, and are able to catch a glimpse of our own country with foreign eyes.. the best we can hope for is that a kindly friend from another culture will enable us to look at our culture with dispassionate eyes.