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Julian Barnes

“Am I to be a king, or just a pig?' Gustave writes in his Intimate Notebook. At nineteen, it always looks as simple as this. There is the life, and then there is the not-life; the life of ambition served, or the life of porcine failure. Others try and tell you about your future, but you never really believe them. 'Many things', Gustave writes at this time, 'have been predicted to me: 1) that I'll learn to dance; 2) that I'll marry. We'll see -- I don't believe it.'

He never married, and he never learned to dance. He was so resistant to dancing that most of the principal male characters in his novels take sympathetic action and refuse to dance as well.

What did he learn instead? Instead he learned that life is not a choice between murdering your way to the throne or slopping back in a sty; that there are swinish kings and regal hogs; that the king may envy the pig; and that the possibilities of the not-life will always change tormentingly to fit the particular embarrassments of the lived life.”


Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
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Flaubert's Parrot Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
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