Favorite Book Quotes Tag

Rules:
1. Mention the creator of the tag (Celine @Celinelingg).
2. Mention the blogger who tagged you.
3. List down 5 of your favourite book quotes along with the reasons.
4. Spread the love and tag some people to participate and connect! (There’s no limit in number, so have some fun and just tag!).

I was tagged by the lovely Aurora for this.  I’ve actually done a couple of posts about my favorite quotes before – HERE and HERE – but those posts are from over a year ago, so for this tag I decided to focus on quotes from books I read in 2018.  None of these books are going to surprise you if you’ve been around here for a while, but let’s do this anyway!
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1. Medea by Christa Wolf, translated from the German by John Cullen

“It’s possible they sense my unbelief, my lack of faith in anything. It’s possible they can’t bear that. When I ran over the field where the frenzied women had strewn your dismembered limbs, when I ran over that field, wailing in the deepening darkness, and gathered you up, poor, broken brother, piece by piece, bone by bone, that’s when I stopped believing. How could we be meant to come back to this earth in a new form. Why should a dead man’s limbs, scattered over a field, make that field fertile. Why should the gods, who demand from us continual proofs of gratitude and submission, let us die in order to send us back to earth again. Your death opened my eyes wide, Apsyrtus. For the first time I found solace in the fact that I don’t have to live forever. And then I was able to let go of that belief born out of fear; to be more exact, it repelled me.”

Anything I can say about this passage sounds silly and trite in comparison to Wolf and Cullen’s searing prose, but this is just one of those paragraphs that I had to stop and reread and then reread again.  The imagery she evokes of her dead brother’s decimated body is striking (‘Why should a dead man’s limbs, scattered over a field, make that field fertile,’ that’s so good), and the theme of questioning faith is something that never fails to engage me.

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2. Tin Man by Sarah Winman

And I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth.

This is one of those quotes that I don’t think sounds spectacular out of context (not that it sounds bad, necessarily, I’m just not one for grand statements about love and heartbreak), but paired with another line that comes later in the book, this absolutely broke me.

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3. Sight by Jessie Greengrass

“I want only what I think we all must want: to come off as better than I ought, more generous, more sure–kinder than I know myself to be; but I want also to be known, to be counted and to be excused. I can’t have both.”

This line gets right to the heart of something that I think so many women struggle with, or at least I do, certainly.  The tension between person and persona, between the true self and projected self, is something I find fascinating and while I didn’t love Sight from start to finish, this is one element of that novel that really resonated with me.

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4. The Idiot by Elif Batuman

“Even though I had a deep conviction that I was good at writing, and that in some way I already was a writer, this conviction was completely independent of my having ever written anything, or being able to imagine ever writing anything, that I thought anyone would like to read.”

I’ve mentioned this line a couple of times on my blog and I’m not sure what else to say about it other than that it makes me feel seen (which in this case feels more accusatory than validating if I’m being completely honest).  I felt such a strong connection to this character, and to her relationship with writing in particular, how she felt she perceived the world as a writer did, how she knew she had some kind of innate talent for writing, but mostly kept that inside her.  I bet if I ever write a book in my lifetime it will be something like The Idiot and I apologize in advance to everyone who will be thoroughly bored by it.

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5. In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

So here it all is, this London. A place that you can love, make rhymes out of pyres and a romance of the colours, talk gladly of the changes and the flux and the rise and the fall without feeling its storm rain on your skin and its bone-scarring winds, a city that won’t love you back unless you become insoluble to the fury, the madness of bound and unbound peoples and the immovables of the place.

The rhythm of Gunaratne’s prose in this novel is almost visceral to read, it’s the kind of writing you want to read out loud over and over to make sure you’re fully grasping the nuance of it.  I just think his imagery is wonderful (‘rhymes out of pyres,’ how brilliant) and this passage captures the frenetic energy of this novel so well.

And, bonus, from one of my first 2019 reads:

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6. Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev

When you’re fished out, you will go to your proper place in a museum to be admired by me only. I will polish your bronze name plaque, and I will be writing the small paragraph, printed on heavy card stock in a tastefully solemn font, about you as a priceless relic, a found shard, degraded, a puzzling piece of history. A head lost, bust found somewhere, a battered woman with blank eyes, erected by those who had infinite worship in their hearts.

This is from an ARC so I’m going to have to check this against the finished copy, but still, I found this passage (regarding a dream where Shalmiyev imagines her mother as a statue submerged underwater) so arresting, and such a vivid description of something that plagues Shalmiyev throughout her memoir – the unresolved love she has for her absent mother that her other family shames her for.

Tagging: Hannah | Callum | Hadeer | Patrick | Emily | anyone who wants to do this

book review: In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

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IN OUR MAD AND FURIOUS CITY by Guy Gunaratne
★★★★★
Tinder Press, 2018 (UK)

 

In Our Mad and Furious City is a frenetic and imperfect but unforgettable feat from debut writer Guy Gunaratne. Set in London over the course of two days, it tells the story of three boys and two of their parents, against the backdrop of an incipient riot caused by a local boy killing a British soldier. Yusuf, Selvon, and Ardan are three friends who live in or around a Neasden housing estate, trying to make a future for themselves in a city fraught with violence and extremism.

This book is a defiant look at the classism, racial tensions, and anti-immigration sentiment that plague not only post-Brexit Britain, but also the previous generation’s Britain; it deals in the enduring and intractable nature of violence and the ways in which that ties into national identity for the second-generation immigrants whose voices propel the novel forward. The violence in this novel isn’t specifically tied to one race or religion – one of the older characters reflects on fleeing Northern Ireland during the Troubles; another remembers arriving in London from the Caribbean only to find himself confronted with the Keep Britain White movement in the 1950s. Gunaratne’s depiction of the cyclical and relentless nature of violence can be disheartening, but this novel is more about the choices the characters make, the strength it requires to turn away from brutality and not engage with it.

Written entirely in different dialects whose cadences and vocabularies vary depending on whose point of view chapter it is (one family is from Ireland, another from Montserrat, another from Pakistan), Gunaratne’s prose is gritty and colloquial but also elevated to the level you’d expect from a literary novel (something that Sebastian Barry failed to do convincingly in Days Without End, I thought, but which Gunaratnre manages with aplomb here – I was simultaneously convinced by the authenticity of the narration and impressed by the prose).

So here it all is, this London. A place that you can love, make rhymes out of pyres and a romance of the colours, talk gladly of the changes and the flux and the rise and the fall without feeling its storm rain on your skin and its bone-scarring winds, a city that won’t love you back unless you become insoluble to the fury, the madness of bound and unbound peoples and the immovables of the place.

But, as I mentioned above, I don’t think it’s a perfect novel; the frantic pace leads a few unwieldy moments, like the awkward inclusion of a sixth point of view character for only a single chapter, or Gunaratne not giving the novel’s climax much room to breathe. I couldn’t help but to think it could have been improved by another 50 or so pages, but at the same time, it’s such a snapshot piece that in a way I admire all Gunaratne was able to achieve with its brevity.

Only halfway through the Booker list, but this one feels like a winner.

More of my Man Booker 2018 reviews:

From a Low and Quiet Sea | The Water Cure
The Mars RoomSnap | Milkman | Everything Under