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Pat Barker quotes (showing 1-30 of 35)

“It's the hardest thing in the world to go on being aware of someone else's pain.”
Pat Barker
“Another person's life, observed from the outside, always has a shape and definition that one's own life lacks.”
Pat Barker
“Sometimes, in the trenches, you get the sense of something, ancient. One trench we held, it had skulls in the side, embedded, like mushrooms. It was actually easier to believe they were men from Marlborough's army, than to think they'd been alive a year ago. It was as if all the other wars had distilled themselves into this war, and that made it something you almost can't challenge. It's like a very deep voice, saying; 'Run along, little man, be glad you've survived”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“I don't think it's possible to c-call yourself a C-Christian and... and j-just leave out the awkward bits.' -Wilfred Owen”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“We are Craiglockhart's success stories. Look at us. We don't remember, we don't feel, we don't think - at least beyond the confines of what's needed to do the job. By any proper civilized standard (but what does that mean now?) we are objects of horror. But our nerves are completely steady. And we are still alive.”
Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
“Somehow if she'd know the worst parts, she couldn't have gone on being a haven for him...Men said they didn't tell their women about France because they didn't want to worry them. but it was more than that. He needed her ignorance to hide in. Yet, at the same time, he wanted to know and be known as deeply as possible. And the two desires were irreconcilable.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“The way I see it, when you put the uniform on, in effect you sign a contract. And you don't back out of a contract merely because you've changed your mind. You can still speak up for your principles, you can still argue against the ones you're being made to fight for, but in the end you do the job.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“Murder is only killing in the wrong place.”
Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
“The sky darkened, the air grew colder, but he didn't mind. It didn't occur to him to move. This was the right place. This was where he had wanted to be.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“she lived a life almost obsessively devoted to triviality. She'd turned into a pond skater, not because she didn't know what lay beneath the surface, but precisely because she did.”
Pat Barker, Toby's Room
“I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
tags: war
“Ghosts everywhere. Even the living were only ghosts in the making. You learned to ration your commitment to them. This moment in this tent already had the quality of remembered experience. Or perhaps he was simply getting old. But then, after all, in trench time he was old. A generation lasted six months, less than that on the Somme, barely twelve weeks.”
Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
“This reinforced Rivers’s view that it was prolonged strain, immobility and helplessness that did the damage, and not the sudden shocks or bizarre horrors that the patients themselves were inclined to point to as the explanation for their condition. That would help to account for the greater prevalence of anxiety neuroses and hysterical disorders in women in peacetime, since their relatively more confined lives gave them fewer opportunities of reacting to stress in active and constructive ways. Any explanation of war neurosis must account for the fact that this apparently intensely masculine life of war and danger and hardship produced in men the same disorders that women suffered from in peace.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“He's a bar-room socialist, if that's what you mean. Beer and revolution go in, piss come out”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“...the white bowl of the street began to fill with darkness, from the pavement upwards, like somebody pouring tea into a cup.”
Pat Barker, Life Class
“His happiness was almost painful, like circulation returning to a dead leg.”
Pat Barker, Life Class
“You know you're walking around with a mask on, and you desperately want to take it off and you can't because everybody else thinks it's your face.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“And as soon as you accepted that the man’s breakdown was a consequence of his war experience rather than his own innate weakness, then inevitably the war became the issue. And the therapy was a test, not only of the genuineness of the individual’s symptoms, but also of the validity of the demands the war was making on him. Rivers had survived partly by suppressing his awareness of this. But then along came Sassoon and made the justifiability of the war a matter for constant, open debate, and that suppression was no longer possible. At times it seemed to Rivers that all his other patients were the anvil and that Sassoon was the hammer. Inevitably there were times when he resented this. As a civilian, Rivers’s life had consisted of asking questions, and devising methods by which truthful answers could be obtained, but there are limits to how many fundamental questions you want to ask in a working day that starts before eight am and doesn’t end till midnight.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“On the face of it he seemed to be congratulating himself on dealing with patients more humanely than Yealland, but then why the mood of self-accusation? In the dream he stood in Yealland’s place. The dream seemed to be saying, in dream language, don’t flatter yourself. There is no distinction.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“As if you cope with loss by ingesting the dead person”
Pat Barker, Toby's Room
“The past is a palimpsest. Early memories are always obscured by accumulations of later knowledge.”
Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
“...you should go tho the past, looking not for messages or warnings, but simply to be humbled by the weight of human experience that has preceded the brief flicker of your own few days.”
Pat Barker
“Colin was beginning to be afraid(...)of the future, of the possibility, suddenly glimpsed, that his life might end like this. Like most young people, he'd always assumed, without ever really thinking about it, that regret, waste, failure lay in wait for others, but not for him. Now(...)he realized, for the first time, that he was not exempt, that this, unless he took steps to avoid it, could happen to him.”
Pat Barker, The Man Who Wasn't There
“(In response to 'In the end moral and political truths have to proved on the body.[ ie put one's body on the line to prove a truth]

That's a very dangerous idea. It comes quite close to saying that the willingness to suffer proves the rightness of belief. But is doesn't. The most it can ever prove is the believer's sincerity. And not always that. some people just like suffering.”
Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
“It was... the Great White God de-throned, I suppose. Because we did, we quite unselfconsciously assumed we were the measure of all things. That was how we approached them. And suddenly I saw that we weren't the measure of all things, but that there was no measure.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“A society that devours its own young deserves no automatic or unquestioning allegiance.”
Pat Barker, Regeneration
“Half the world's work's done by hopeless neurotics.”
Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door
“Lying between the sheets, she felt different; her body had turned into bread dough, dough that's been kneaded and pounded till it's grey, lumpen, no yeast in it, no lightness, no prospect of rising. Her arms lay stiff by her sides. When, finally, she drifted off to sleep, she dreamt she was on her knees in a corner of the room, trying to vomit without attracting the attention of the person who was asleep on the bed. Her eyes wide open in the darkness, she tried to cast off the dream, but it stayed with her till morning.”
Pat Barker, Toby's Room
“But then, that's the question. Should you even pause to consider your own reactions? These men suffer so much more than he does, more than he can imagine. In the face of their suffering, isn't it self-indulgent to think about his own feelings? He has nobody to talk to about such things and blunders his way through as best he can. If you feel nothing -this is what he comes back to time and time again -you might just as well be a machine, and machines aren't very good at caring for people. There's something machine-like about a lot of the professional nurses here. Even Sister Byrd, whom he admires, he looks at her sometimes and sees an automaton. Well, lucky for her, perhaps. It's probably more efficient to be like that. Certainly less painful.”
Pat Barker, Life Class
“A gang of teenage boys had gathered on the steps of the Odeon. Boys Collin knew, from the fourth and fifth year, boys with braying laughs and sudden, falsetto giggles, boys who stood on street corners and watched girls walk past, who punched each other with painful tenderness, who cultivated small moustaches that broke down, when shaved, into crusts of acne thicker than the moustaches had ever been, who lit cigarettes behind cupped hands, narrowing their eyes in pretended indifference to the smoke.”
Pat Barker, The Man Who Wasn't There

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