"The centuries-long wars with the Saracen, when everything of the East was the enemy, and the subsequent, now over, era of Western imperialism, when Eastern cultures were despised by us, have caused a block in European thinking, making it hard for us to acknowledge what we all owe to the East. Two great religions have influenced Europe, we say: Christianity and Judaism, but we scarcely mention Islam, which has been the third. We are the heirs, we claim proudly, of Greece and Rome, but seldom think of the Arabs, the Persians, the Moors, who, through Spain, fed culture into a Europe that was considered a poor and backward place, with a culture far below the dazzling civilizations of the cities of North Africa, Spain, the Middle East, India."
"The point is, that the function of the novel seems to be changing; it has become an outpost of journalism; we read novels for information about areas of life we don't know--Nigeria, South Africa, the American army, a coal-mining village, coteries in Chelsea, etc. We read to find out what is going on. One novel in five hundred or a thousand has the quality a novel should have to make it a novel--the quality of philosophy."
"And so she knelt in front of a bookcase, in driving need of the right arrangement of words; for it is a remarkable fact that she was left unmoved by criticisms of the sort of person she was by parents, relations, preachers, teachers, politicians and the people who write for the newspapers; whereas an unsympathetic description of a character similar to her own in a novel would send her into a condition of anxious soul-searching for days. Which suggests that it is of no use for artists to insist, with such nervous disinclination for responsibility, that their productions are only "a divine play" or "a reflection from the creative fires of irony," etc., etc., while the Marthas of this world read and search with the craving thought, What does this say about my life?"
"The true novel wrestles on the edge of understanding, lying about on all sides desperately, for every sort of experience, pressing into use every flash of intuition or correspondence, trying to fuse together the crudest of materials, and the humblest, which the higher arts can't include. But it is precisely here, where the writer fights with the raw, the intractable, that poetry is born. Poetry, that is, of the novel: appropriate to it. The Story of an African Farm is a poetic novel; and when one has done with the "plot" and the characters, that is what remains: an endeavor, a kind of hunger, that passionate desire for growth and understanding, which is the deepest pulse of human beings."
"Now I must write personally; but I would not, if I didn't know that nothing we can say about ourselves is personal. I read the novel when I was fourteen or so; understanding very well the isolation described in it; responding to her sense of Africa the magnificent--mine, and everyone's who knows Africa; realizing that this was one of the few rare books. For it is in that small number of novels, with Moby Dick, Jude the Obscure, Wuthering Heights, perhaps one or two others, which is on a frontier of the human mind."
"Women of the tradition to which Alice and Martha belonged are prepared to discuss menstruation or pregnancy in the frankest of detail, but it is taboo to discuss sex, notwithstanding the show of frankness the subject is surrounded with. It follows that they get their information about how other women react sexually from their men, a system which has its disadvantages."
"It was almost with the feeling of a rider who was wondering whether his horse would make the course that she regarded this body of hers, which was not only divided from her brain by the necessity of keeping open that cool and dispassionate eye, but separated into compartments of its own. Martha had after all been provided with a map of her flesh by the "book", in which each area was marked by the name of a different physical sensation, so that her mind was anxiously aware, not only of a disconnected partner, a body, but of every part of it, which might or might not come up to scratch at any given occasion."
"War. Fighting. Men ... every man in the whole realm is in the army.... Every man in uniform ... An economy entirely geared to war ... but there is not much war ... hardly any fighting ... yet every man a soldier from birth till death ... Men ... all men for fighting ... but no war, no wars to fight ... what is it, what does it mean?"
"There was a kind of shifting of the balances of my brain, of the way I had been thinking, the same kind of realignment as when, a few days before, words like democracy, liberty, freedom, had faded under pressure of a new sort of understanding of the real movement of the world towards dark, hardening power. I knew, but of course the word, written, cannot convey the quality of this knowing, that whatever already is has its logic and its force. I felt this, like a vision, in a new kind of knowing. And I knew that the cruelty and the spite and the I.I.I.I. of Saul and of Anna were part of the logic of war; and I knew how strong these emotions were, in a way that would never leave me, would become part of how I saw the world."
"All the old supports going, gone, this man reaches out a hand to steady himself on a ledge of rough brick that is warm in the sun: his hand feeds him messages of solidity, but his mind messages of destruction, for this breathing substance, made of earth, will be a dance of atoms, he knows it, his intelligence tells him so: there will soon be war, he is in the middle of war, where he stands will be a waste, mounds of rubble, and this solid earthy substance will be a film of dust on ruins."
"She was watching, fearfully, the effect on herself of the poetry of suffering; the words "no man's land," "star shells," "Boche," touched off in her images like those of poetry; no man's land was the black and wasted desert between the living forces; star shells exploded in coloured lights, like fireworks, across her brain, drenched in reminiscence; Boche was fearful and gigantic, nothing human, a night figure; the tripping word "Gallipoli" was like a heroic dance. She was afraid because of the power of these words, which affected her so strongly, who had nothing to do with what they stood for."
"We are all of us made by war, twisted and warped by war, but we seem to forget it. A war does not end with the Armistice. In 1919, all over a Europe filled with graves, hung miasmas and miseries, and over the whole world too, because of the flu and its nearly thirty million deaths. I used to joke that it was the war that had give birth to me, as a defence when weary with the talk about the war that went on--and on--and on. But it was no joke. I used to feel there was something like a dark grey cloud, like poison gas, over my early childhood. Later I found people who had the same experience. Perhaps it was from that war that I first felt the struggling panicky need to escape, with a nervous aversion to where I have just stood, as if something there might blow up or drag me down by the heel."
"What lies behind facts like these: that so recently one could not have said Scott was not perfect without earning at least sorrowful disapproval; that a year after the Gang of Four were perfect, they were villains; that in the fifties in the United States a nothing-man called McCarthy was able to intimidate and terrorise sane and sensible people, but that in the sixties young people summoned before similar committees simply laughed."
"This is certainly not the place for a discourse about what festivals are for. Discussions on this theme were plentiful during thatphase of preparation and on the whole were fruitless. My experience is that discussion is fruitless. What sets forth and demonstrates is the sight of events in action, is living through these events and understanding them."
"What really fascinates me is this need that is so strong now that if you read a work of the imagination you instantly have to say, 'Oh, what this really is is so-and-so,' reducing it to a simple formula."
"What of course I would like to be writing is the story of the Red and White Dwarves and their Remembering Mirror, their space rocket (powered by anti-gravity), their attendant entities Hadron, Gluon, Pion, Lepton, and Muon, and the Charmed Quarks and the Coloured Quarks. But we can't all be physicists."
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