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Thread: Great passages of prose

  1. #1

    Great passages of prose

    Please post some great prose. It can be anything- extracts from novels, works of non fiction, even newspaper articles.

    Evelyn Waugh's prose is often beautiful. Others may have had greater intellectual depth or been more groundbreaking and innovative, but if you want simple, perfect prose he is a pretty good place to start. This is one of my favourite pieces (we are in Crete during the allied retreat in WW2):

    "Suddenly quite near him there was a rifle shot. He heard the crack and smack and whistling ricochet among the rocks behind him. He dropped his torch and began feebly to trot. He lost the path and stumbled from boulder to boulder until treading on something which seemed smooth and round and solid in the star light he found himself in the top of a tree which grew twenty feet below. Scattering Greek currency among the leaves, he subsided quite gently from branch to branch and when he reached ground continued to roll over and over, down and down, caressed and momentarily stayed by bushes until at length he came to rest as though borne there by a benevolent Zephyr of classical myth, in a soft, dark, sweet-smelling, empty place where the only sound was the music of falling water. And there for a time the descent ended. Out of sight, out of hearing, the crowded boats put out from the beach; the men-o' war sailed away and Fido slept

    Perfect.

    This next passage is from C S Lewis' masterpiece 'The Discarded Image':

    "Whatever else a modern feels when he looks at the night sky, he certainly feels that he is looking OUT- like one looking out from the saloon entrance onto the dark Atlantic or from the ligted porch upon dark and lonely moors. But if you accepted the medieval model you would feel like one looking IN. The Earth is 'outside the city wall'. When the sun is up he dazzles us and we cannot see inside. Darkness, our own darkness, draws the veil and we catch a glimpse of the high pomps within; the vast, lighted concavity filled with music and life."

    Not many writers can make me long to be a medieval christian.

    This is another piece by Lewis:

    "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is Hell."

    Isn't that beautiful?

    The last bit is by Orwell, describing what it was like to be hit by a bullet in the Spanish Civil War:

    "...it was the sensation of being at the centre of an explosion. There seemed to be a loud bang and a blinding flash of light all round me, and I felt a tremendous shock- no pain, only violent shock, such as you get from an electric terminal; with it a sense of utter weakness, a feeling of being stricken and shrivelled up to nothing. The sand bags in front of me receded into immense distance."

    gimme some good prose- even if it is only a single line.
    Last edited by WICKES; 02-09-2009 at 03:18 PM.

  2. #2
    spiritus ubi vult spirat weltanschauung's Avatar
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    in search of lost time, proust

    "I seized every pretext for going down to the beach at the hours when I hoped to succeed in finding them there. Having caught sight of them once while we were at luncheon, I now invariably came in late for it, waiting interminably upon the 'front' for them to pass; devoting all the short time that I did spend in the dining-room to interrogating with my eyes its azure wall of glass; rising long before the dessert, so as not to miss them should they have gone out at a different hour, and chafing with irritation at my grandmother, when, with unwitting malevolence, she made me stay with her past the hour that seemed to me propitious. I tried to prolong the horizon by setting my chair aslant; if, by chance, I did catch sight of no matter which of the girls, since they all partook of the same special essence, it was as if I had seen projected before my face in a shifting, diabolical hallucination, a little of the unfriendly and yet passionately coveted dream which, but a moment ago, had existed only—where it lay stagnant for all time—in my brain.

    I was in love with none of them, loving them all, and yet the possibility of meeting them was in my daily life the sole element of delight, alone made to burgeon in me those high hopes by which every obstacle is surmounted, hopes ending often in fury if I had not seen them. For the moment, these girls eclipsed my grandmother in my affection; the longest journey would at once have seemed attractive to me had it been to a place in which they might be found. It was to them that my thoughts comfortably clung when I supposed myself to be thinking of something else or of nothing. But when, even without knowing it, I thought of them, they, more unconsciously still, were for me the mountainous blue undulations of the sea, a troop seen passing in outline against the waves. Our most intensive love for a person is always the love, really, of something else as well."


    "When the mind has a tendency to dream, it is a mistake to keep dreams away from it, to ration its dreams. So long as you distract your mind from its dreams, it will not know them for what they are; you will always be being taken in by the appearance of things, because you will not have grasped their true nature. If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time. One must have a thorough understanding of one's dreams if one is not to be troubled by them; there is a way of separating one's dreams from one's life which so often produces good results that I ask myself whether one ought not, at all costs, to try it, simply as a preventive, just as certain surgeons make out that we ought, to avoid the risk of appendicitis later on, to have all our appendices taken out when we are children."

    Grief that is caused one by a person with whom one is in love can be bitter, even when it is interpolated among preoccupations, occupations, pleasures in which that person is not directly involved and from which our attention is diverted only now and again to return to it. But when such a grief has its birth—as was now happening—at a moment when the happiness of seeing that person fills us to the exclusion of all else, the sharp depression that then affects our spirits, sunny hitherto, sustained and calm, lets loose in us a raging tempest against which we know not whether we are capable of struggling to the end. The tempest that was blowing in my heart was so violent that I made my way home baffled, battered, feeling that I could recover my breath only by retracing my steps, by returning, upon whatever pretext, into Gilberte's presence. But she would have said to herself: "Back again! Evidently I can go to any length with him; he will come back every time, and the more wretched he is when he leaves me the more docile he'll be." Besides, I was irresistibly drawn towards her in thought, and those alternative orientations, that mad careering between them of the compass-needle within me, persisted after I had reached home, and expressed themselves in the mutually contradictory letters to Gilberte which I began to draft.

    (...)

    I had just written Gilberte a letter in which I allowed the tempest of my wrath to thunder, not however without throwing her the lifebuoy of a few words disposed as though by accident on the page, by clinging to which my friend might be brought to a reconciliation; a moment later, the wind having changed, they were phrases full of love that I addressed to her, chosen for the sweetness of certain forlorn expressions, those 'nevermores' so touching to those who pen them, so wearisome to her who will have to read them, whether she believe them to be false and translate 'nevermore' by 'this very evening, if you want me,' or believe them to be true and so to be breaking the news to her of one of those final separations which make so little difference to our lives when the other person is one with whom we are not in love. But since we are incapable, while we are in love, of acting as fit predecessors of the next persons whom we shall presently have become, and who will then be in love no longer, how are we to imagine the actual state of mind of a woman whom, even when we are conscious that we are of no account to her, we have perpetually represented in our musings as uttering, so as to lull us into a happy dream or to console us for a great sorrow, the same speeches that she would make if she loved us. When we come to examine the thoughts, the actions of a woman whom we love, we are as completely at a loss as must have been, face to face with the phenomena of nature, the world's first natural philosophers, before their science had been elaborated and had cast a ray of light over the unknown.

    (...)

    I was like a pauper who moistens his dry crust with fewer tears if he assures himself that, at any moment, a total stranger is perhaps going to leave him the whole of his fortune. We are all of us obliged, if we are to make reality endurable, to nurse a few little follies in ourselves.


    "There is no man," he began, "however wise, who has not at some period of his youth said things, or lived in a way the consciousness of which is so unpleasant to him in later life that he would gladly, if he could, expunge it from his memory. And yet he ought not entirely to regret it, because he cannot be certain that he has indeed become a wise man—so far as it is possible for any of us to be wise—unless he has passed through all the fatuous or unwholesome incarnations by which that ultimate stage must be preceded. I know that there are young fellows, the sons and grandsons of famous men, whose masters have instilled into them nobility of mind and moral refinement in their schooldays. They have, perhaps, when they look back upon their past lives, nothing to retract; they can, if they choose, publish a signed account of everything they have ever said or done; but they are poor creatures, feeble descendants of doctrinaires, and their wisdom is negative and sterile. We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you are not the result of training at home, by a father, or by masters at school, they have sprung from beginnings of a very different order, by reaction from the influence of everything evil or commonplace that prevailed round about them. They represent a struggle and a victory. I can see that the picture of what we once were, in early youth, may not be recognisable and cannot, certainly, be pleasing to contemplate in later life. But we must not deny the truth of it, for it is evidence that we have really lived, that it is in accordance with the laws of life and of the mind that we have, from the common elements of life, of the life of studios, of artistic groups—assuming that one is a painter—extracted something that goes beyond them."

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by WICKES

    "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is Hell."
    Interesting quote from C.S. Lewis.

    Thanks for the quote from Marcel Proust, weltanschauung, very fascinating! He seems one of those authors I have neglected for some time, though I have meant to read some of his works. Perhaps that selection you posted will finally kick that desire strong enough to pick up one of his books.

    From The Joyful Wisdom by Friedrich Nietzsche:
    We, the generous and rich in spirit, who stand at the sides of the streets like open fountains and would hinder no one from drinking from us, we do not know, alas! how to defend ourseles when we should like to do so; we have no means of preventing ourselves being made turbid and dark - we have no means of preventing the age in which we live casting its "up-to-date rubbish" into us, nor of hindering filthy birds throwing their excrement, the boys their trash, and fatigued resting travelers their misery, great and small, into us. But we do as we have always done; we take whatever is cast into us down into our depths - for we are deep, we do not forget - and once more grow clear.
    From The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway:
    It was dark now as it becomes dark quickly after the sun sets in September. He lay against the worn wood of the bow and rested all that he could. The first stars were out. He did not know the name of Rigel but he saw it and knew soon they would all be out and he would have all his distant friends.
    "The fish is my friend too," he said aloud. "I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars."
    Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. But imagine if a man each day should have to try to kill the sun? We were born lucky, he thought.
    Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed his sorrow for him. How many people will he feed, he thought. But are they worthy to eat him? No, of course not. There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behaviour and his great dignity.
    I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.
    From Markings by Dag Hammarskjold:
    At every moment you choose yourself. But do you choose your self? Body and soul contain a thousand possibilities out of which you can build many I's. But in only one of them is there a congruence of the elector and the elected. Only one - which you will never find until you have excluded all those superficial and fleeting possibilities of being and doing with which you toy, out of curiosity or wonder or greed, and which hinder you from casting anchor in the experience of the mystery in life, and the consciousness of the talent entrusted to you which is your I

  4. #4
    Examples of perfect prose

    You started that thread yourself, WICKES, I believe.
    com-pas-sion (n.) [ME. & OFr. <LL. (Ec.) compassio, sympathy < compassus, pp. of compati, to feel pity < L. com-, together + pali, to suffer] sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help; deep sympathy; pity

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  5. #5
    T E Lawrence (lawrence of Arabia) on his rape and torture at the hands of Turkish soldiers in WW1:

    "To keep my mind in control I numbered the blows, but after twenty lost count and could feel only the shapeless weight of pain, not tearing claws, for which I had prepared, but a gradual cracking apart of my whole being by some too-great force whose waves rolled up my spine till they were pent within my brain, to clash terribly together. Somewhere in the place a cheap clock ticked loudly, and it distressed me that their beating was not in time. I writhed and twisted, but was held so tightly that my struggles were useless...As the punishment proceeded the whip fell more and more upon existing weals, biting blacker or more wet, till my flesh quivered with accumulated pain, and with terror of the next blow coming. They soon conquered my determination not to cry, but while my will ruled my lips I used only Arabic, and before the end a merciful sickness choked my utterence."

    (Seven Pillars of Wisdom)

    I am fascinated by poet-warriors like T. E Lawrence, Robert Graves, Sassoon. People who were both intellectuals and adventurers or soldiers- Walter Raleigh, Sir Richard Burton etc etc

    I do think Evelyn Waugh wrote some truly beautiful prose. He was a real craftsman who strove above all for perfection and beauty rather than innovation or impact. Here he is describing a swim after a long, stressful military retreat in the Mediterranean sun

    "He stripped and dived and swam out in a sudden access of euphoria; he turned on his back and floated, his eyes closed to the sun, his ears sealed to every sound, oblivious of everything except physical ease, solitary and exultant."

    (The Sword of Honour Trilogy)

    Aldous Huxley is another favourite of mine. This is one of his characters, an upper class Brit/Englishman, speaking about Etruscan tombs in Italy:

    "Two thousand five hundred years ago they wept here over the newly dead. You see them hunting, drinking, making love. What else could you expect them to do? Translations will tell us nothing new."

    (Those Barren Leaves)
    Last edited by WICKES; 02-10-2009 at 08:29 AM.

  6. #6
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    I like the Evelyn Waugh - he's a personal favourite of mine.

    How's about this? A fantastic extract from Mary Wollstonecraft's semi-autobiographical "A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark." Here, she is describing her difficult emotions upon seeing a waterfall:

    "The impetuous dashing of the rebounding torrent from the dark cavities which mocked the exploring eye, produced an equal activity in my mind: my thoughts darted from earth to heaven, and I asked myself why I was chained to life and its misery? Still the tumultuous emotions this sublime object excited, were pleasurable; and, viewing it, my soul rose, with renewed dignity, above its cares - grasping at immortality - it seemed as impossible to stop the current of my thoughts, as of the always varying, still the same, torrent before me - I stretched out my hand to eternity, bounding over the dark speck of life to come."

    I just love the way that the words seem to break down, but the meaning becomes so much clearer. A really transcendant piece of emotion.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

  7. #7
    the unnameable promtbr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by weltanschauung View Post
    in search of lost time, proust
    (Just curious if you read all volumes and how long ago???)

    I am just reading this. (just finished volume 1..)

    A shorter quote:

    The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our convenience. They were only a thin slice, held between contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; the memory of a particular image is but a regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.

    The last sentence of Swann's Way (Moncrief/Kilmartin/Enright tr)

    ...a quotable sentence roughly every 4 pages ....let see, that extrapolates to 1075 quoatable sentences in The Search

    One can not be in a hurry if you want to try and attempt The Search

  8. #8
    beautiful Proust passages, as always.

    I like this piece from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, quite a bit:

    'The mouth that tells not will ever attract the unthinking tongue and so long as the obseen draws theirs which hear not so long till allearth's dumbnation shall the blind lead the deaf'

    Very interpretable from a very dense book!
    I AM THE BOY
    THAT CAN ENJOY
    INVISIBILITY.

  9. #9
    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Also from Joyce (Ulysses):

    Mr Bloom moved forward raising troubled eyes. Think no more about that. After one. Time ball on the ballast office is down. Dunsink time. Fascinating little book that is of Sir Robert Ball's. Parallax. I never exactly understood. There's a priest. Could ask him. Par it's Greek: parallel, parallax. Met him pikehoses she called it till I told her about the transmigration. O rocks!

    Mr Bloom smiled O rocks at two windows of the ballast office. She's right after all. Only big words for ordinary things on account of the sound. She's not exactly witty. Can be rude too. Blurt out what I was thinking, Still I don't know. She used to say Ben Dollard had a base barreltone voice. He has legs like barrels and you'd think he was singing into a barrel. Now, isn't that wit ? They used to call him big Ben. Not half as witty as calling him base barreltone. Appetite like an albatross. Get outside of a baron of beef. Powerful man he was at storing away number one Bass. Barrel of Bass. See? It all works out.


    Excellent quote, Jeremiah, from Ulysses in your sig, by the way.
    Last edited by mayneverhave; 02-10-2009 at 05:06 PM.

  10. #10
    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    From William Faulkner (Absalom, Absalom!):

    "'Yes,' Judith said. 'Or destroy it. As you like. Read it if you like or dont read it if you like. Because you make so little impression, you see. You get born and you try this and you dont know why only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they dont know why either except that the strings are all in one another's way like five or six people all trying to make a rug on the same loom only each one wants to weave his own pattern into the rug; and it cant matter, you know that, or the Ones that set up the loom would have arranged things a little better, and yet it must matter because you keep on trying or having to keep on trying and then all of a sudden it's all over all you have left is a block of stone with scratches on it provided there was someone to remember to have the marble scratched and set up or had time to, and it rains on it and the sun shines on it and after a while they dont even remember the name and what the scratches were trying to tell, and it doesn't matter.

  11. #11
    laudator temporis acti andave_ya's Avatar
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    ...These are passages I've copied down from my reading because I especially enjoyed them...

    I want to travel in Europe, Alyosha. I shall set off from here. And yet I know that I am only going to a grave-yard, that's what it is! Precious are the dead that lie there, every stone over them speaks of such burning life in the past, of such passionate faith in their work, their truth, their struggle and their science, that I know I shall fall on the ground and kiss those stones and weep over them; though I'm convinced in my heart that its long been nothing but a gravek-yard. And I shall not weep from despair, but simply because I shall be happy in my tears, I shall steep my soul in my emotion. I love the sticky leaves in spring, the blue sky -- that's all it is. It's not a matter of intellect or logic, it's loving with one's inside, with one's stomach. One loves the first strength of one's youth. Do you understand anything of my tirade, Alyosha?
    From Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, as translated by Constance Garnett.


    Away! Away!
    The spell of arms and voices: the white arms of roads, their promise of close embraces and the black arms of tall ships that stand against the moon, their tale of distant nations. They are held out to say: We are alone -- come. And the voices say with them: We are your kinsmen. And the air is thick with their company as they call to me, their kinsman, making ready to go, shaking the wings of their exultant and terrible youth.
    From Joyce's The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.


    Certain faculties of men are directed towards the Unknown; thought, meditation, prayer. The Unknown is an ocean. What is conscience? It is the compass of the Unknown. Thought, meditation, prayer, these are the great mysterious pointings of the needle. Let us respect them. Whither tend these majestic irradiations of the soul? into shadow, that is, towards the light.

    To proffer thought to the thirst of men, to give to all, as an elixir, the idea of God, to cause conscience and science to fraternise in them, and to make them good men by this mysterious confrontation -- such is the province of true philosophy. Morality is truth in full bloom. Contemplation leads to action. The absolute should be practical. The ideal must be made air and food and drink to the human mind.
    Both quotes are taken from Hugo's Les Miserables, translated by Charles Wilbour.
    "The time has come," the Walrus said,
    "To talk of many things:
    Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
    Of cabbages--and kings--
    And why the sea is boiling hot--
    And whether pigs have wings."

  12. #12
    spiritus ubi vult spirat weltanschauung's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mono View Post
    Thanks for the quote from Marcel Proust, weltanschauung, very fascinating! He seems one of those authors I have neglected for some time, though I have meant to read some of his works. Perhaps that selection you posted will finally kick that desire strong enough to pick up one of his books.
    you definetly should. its soooooooo good (if youre into the whole teletransport with existentialistic particles...)
    the first proust i read was actually this:

    and it only had two short stories: "the indifferent man", and "the end of jealousy", but they were like crack and i desperately searched for other things from him right away because i never thought it was so great.

    Quote Originally Posted by promtbr View Post
    (Just curious if you read all volumes and how long ago???)
    i actually read the first two volumes and am now waiting for the right moment to start the guermantes' way.. proust is the kind of reading you need to be in the right mood for it, cause it consuuuuumes you, and if youre not in the right mood you just cant fully apreciate its awesomeness.

    swann's way was great, specially that last chapter about how swann met odete. its just so ironically funny. or maybe im just weird..

    "Dr. Cottard was never quite certain of the tone in which he ought to reply to any observation, or whether the speaker was jesting or in earnest. And so in any event he would embellish all his facial expressions with the offer of a conditional, a provisional smile whose expectant subtlety would exonerate him from the charge of being a simpleton, if the remark addressed to him should turn out to have been facetious. But as he must also be prepared to face the alternative, he never dared to allow this smile a definite expression on his features, and you would see there a perpetually flickering uncertainty, in which you might decipher the question that he never dared to ask: “Do you really mean that?” He was no more confident of the manner in which he ought to conduct himself in the street, or indeed in life generally, than he was in a drawing-room; and he might be seen greeting passers-by, carriages, and anything that occurred with a malicious smile which absolved his subsequent behaviour of all impropriety, since it proved, if it should turn out unsuited to the occasion, that he was well aware of that, and that if he had assumed a smile, the jest was a secret of his own.

    ...

    As regards figures of speech, he was insatiable in his thirst for knowledge, for often imagining them to have a more definite meaning than was actually the case, he would want to know what, exactly, was intended by those which he most frequently heard used: ‘devilish pretty,’ ‘blue blood,’ ‘a cat and dog life,’ ‘a day of reckoning,’ ‘a queen of fashion, ‘to give a free hand,’ ‘to be at a deadlock,’ and so forth; and in what particular circumstances he himself might make use of them in conversation. Failing these, he would adorn it with puns and other ‘plays upon words’ which he had learned by rote. As for the names of strangers which were uttered in his hearing, he used merely to repeat them to himself in a questioning tone, which, he thought, would suffice to furnish him with explanations for which he would not ostensibly seek.

    As the critical faculty, on the universal application of which he prided himself, was, in reality, completely lacking, that refinement of good breeding which consists in assuring some one whom you are obliging in any way, without expecting to be believed, that it is really yourself that is obliged to him, was wasted on Cottard, who took everything that he heard in its literal sense. However blind she may have been to his faults, Mme. Verdurin was genuinely annoyed, though she still continued to regard him as brilliantly clever, when, after she had invited him to see and hear Sarah Bernhardt from a stage box, and had said politely: “It is very good of you to have come, Doctor, especially as I’m sure you must often have heard Sarah Bernhardt; and besides, I’m afraid we’re rather too near the stage,” the Doctor, who had come into the box with a smile which waited before settling upon or vanishing from his face until some one in authority should enlighten him as to the merits of the spectacle, replied: “To be sure, we are far too near the stage, and one is getting sick of Sarah Bernhardt. But you expressed a wish that I should come. For me, your wish is a command. I am only too glad to be able to do you this little service. What would one not do to please you, you are so good.” And he went on, “Sarah Bernhardt; that’s what they call the Voice of God, ain’t it? You see, often, too, that she ‘sets the boards on fire.’ That’s an odd expression, ain’t it?” in the hope of an enlightening commentary, which, however, was not forthcoming.

    ...


    (...)“Take care, Master Biche,” she reminded the painter, whom it was a time-honoured pleasantry to address as ‘Master,’ “to catch that nice look in his eyes, that witty little twinkle. You know, what I want to have most of all is his smile; that’s what I’ve asked you to paint—the portrait of his smile.” And since the phrase struck her as noteworthy, she repeated it very loud, so as to make sure that as many as possible of her guests should hear it, and even made use of some indefinite pretext to draw the circle closer before she uttered it again.

    ...

    So, stupefied with the gaiety of the ‘faithful,’ drunken with comradeship, scandal and asseveration, Mme. Verdurin, perched on her high seat like a cage-bird whose biscuit has been steeped in mulled wine, would sit aloft and sob with fellow-feeling.

    ...

    Odette would say of some one: “He never goes to any place that isn’t really smart.”

    And if Swann were to ask her what she meant by that, she would answer, with a touch of contempt, “Smart places! Why, good heavens, just fancy, at your age, having to be told what the smart places are in Paris! What do you expect me to say? Well, on Sunday mornings there’s the Avenue de l’Impératrice, and round the lake at five o’clock, and on Thursdays the Eden-Théâtre, and thé Hippodrome on Fridays; then there are the balls...”

    “What balls?”

    ...

    When he proposed to take leave of Odette, and to return home, she begged him to stay a little longer, and even detained him forcibly, seizing him by the arm as he was opening the door to go. But he gave no thought to that, for, among the crowd of gestures and speeches and other little incidents which go to make up a conversation, it is inevitable that we should pass (without noticing anything that arouses our interest) by those that hide a truth for which our suspicions are blindly searching, whereas we stop to examine others beneath which nothing lies concealed. She kept on saying: “What a dreadful pity; you never by any chance come in the afternoon, and the one time you do come then I miss you.” He knew very well that she was not sufficiently in love with him to be so keenly distressed merely at having missed his visit, but as she was a good-natured woman, anxious to give him pleasure, and often sorry when she had done anything that annoyed him, he found it quite natural that she should be sorry, on this occasion, that she had deprived him of that pleasure of spending an hour in her company, which was so very great a pleasure, if not to herself, at any rate to him. All the same, it was a matter of so little importance that her air of unrelieved sorrow began at length to bewilder him. She reminded him, even more than was usual, of the faces of some of the women created by the painter of the Trimavera.’ She had, at that moment, their downcast, heartbroken expression, which seems ready to succumb beneath the burden of a grief too heavy to be borne, when they are merely allowing the Infant Jesus to play with a pomegranate, or watching Moses pour water into a trough. He had seen the same sorrow once before on her face, but when, he could no longer say. Then, suddenly, he remembered it; it was when Odette had lied, in apologising to Mme. Verdurin on the evening after the dinner from which she had stayed away on a pretext of illness, but really so that she might be alone with Swann. Surely, even had she been the most scrupulous of women, she could hardly have felt remorse for so innocent a lie. But the lies which Odette ordinarily told were less innocent, and served to prevent discoveries which might have involved her in the most terrible difficulties with one or another of her friends. And so, when she lied, smitten with fear, feeling herself to be but feebly armed for her defence, unconfident of success, she was inclined to weep from sheer exhaustion, as children weep sometimes when they have not slept. She knew, also, that her lie, as a rule, was doing a serious injury to the man to whom she was telling it, and that she might find herself at his mercy if she told it badly. Therefore she felt at once humble and culpable in his presence. And when she had to tell an insignificant, social lie its hazardous associations, and the memories which it recalled, would leave her weak with a sense of exhaustion and penitent with a consciousness of wrongdoing."

  13. #13
    "She tried to go on with her letter, reminding herself that she was only and elderly woman who had got up too early in the morning and journeyed too far, that the despair creeping over her was merely her despair, her personal weakness, and that even if she got a sunstroke and went mad the rest of the world would go on. But suddenly, at the edge of her mind, Religion appeared, poor little talkative christianity, and she knew that all its divine words, from 'let there be light', to 'it is finished' only amounted to 'boum'. Then she was terrified over an area larger than usual; the universe, never comprehensible to her intellect, offered no repose to her soul..."

    E M Forster: A Passage To India
    Last edited by WICKES; 02-12-2009 at 04:37 AM.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by mayneverhave View Post
    Also from Joyce (Ulysses):

    Mr Bloom moved forward raising troubled eyes. Think no more about that. After one. Time ball on the ballast office is down. Dunsink time. Fascinating little book that is of Sir Robert Ball's. Parallax. I never exactly understood. There's a priest. Could ask him. Par it's Greek: parallel, parallax. Met him pikehoses she called it till I told her about the transmigration. O rocks!

    Mr Bloom smiled O rocks at two windows of the ballast office. She's right after all. Only big words for ordinary things on account of the sound. She's not exactly witty. Can be rude too. Blurt out what I was thinking, Still I don't know. She used to say Ben Dollard had a base barreltone voice. He has legs like barrels and you'd think he was singing into a barrel. Now, isn't that wit ? They used to call him big Ben. Not half as witty as calling him base barreltone. Appetite like an albatross. Get outside of a baron of beef. Powerful man he was at storing away number one Bass. Barrel of Bass. See? It all works out.


    Excellent quote, Jeremiah, from Ulysses in your sig, by the way.
    Ah! The same goes to your passage in the thread. I've been rereading Ulysses lately only aloud and it's almost a totally different book, everything is so musical. Also, I'm glad I'm not the only one growing and prospering!

    P.s. all this Proust in here is glorious!
    I AM THE BOY
    THAT CAN ENJOY
    INVISIBILITY.

  15. #15
    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremiah Jazzz View Post
    Ah! The same goes to your passage in the thread. I've been rereading Ulysses lately only aloud and it's almost a totally different book, everything is so musical. Also, I'm glad I'm not the only one growing and prospering!
    Ah. A man that enjoys his Ulysses and his King Lear - a true cosmopolitan indeed.

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