Katherine's Reviews > A History of the World in 10½ Chapters

A History of the World in 10½  Chapters by Julian Barnes
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Sep 09, 12

bookshelves: fiction
Read from September 04 to 09, 2012

“Water sluiced down from a bilious sky to purge the wicked world” (9).
“I could occasionally find the situation funny, and give vent to the outcast’s laugh” (11).
“Noah, as you will have been told many times, was a very God-fearing man; and given the nature of God, that was probably the safest line to take” (11).
“…but I can tell you this: there was a lot of salted behemoth left over at the end of the journey” (14).
“…and managed to get him into bed without letting their gaze fall on those organs of generation which mysteriously incite your species to shame” (17).
“On the Ark we puzzled ceaselessly at the riddle of how God came to choose man as His protégé ahead of the more obvious candidates” (18).
“…and I suppose being selected like that as the favoured survivor, knowing that your dynasty is going to be the only one on earth—it must turn your head, mustn’t it? As for his sons—Ham, Shem and the one beginning with J—it certainly didn’t do much good for their egos. Swanking about on deck like the Royal Family” (21).
“The circumstances were unusual, but they were being told a story, and they were offering themselves to the story-teller in the manner of audiences down the ages, wanting to see how things turned out, wanting to have the world explained to them” (55).
“Ten minutes later there came the noise of shooting. From five o’clock to eleven o’clock, punctually on the hour like some terrible parody of a municipal clock, gunfire pealed” (57-58).
“ ‘For whence came these tiny creatures against whom the solemn might of this court is being flung?’” (67).
“ ‘…will fall like the walls of Jericho before the trumpet of truth’” (74).
“ ‘…good Brother Frolibert, who is wise in the ways of the creeping things of the earth…’” (74).
“She wondered why none of the tourists who stayed in the big hotel along the Esplanade thought it odd. But nobody stops to think about the world any more. We live in a world where they make children pay to see the fish eat. Nowadays even fish are exploited, she thought” (90-91).
“What made it think it could get away with something like that?” (98). *Referring to the mind. I can identify.
“It was the mind, she decided: that was the cause of it all. The mind simply got too clever for its own good, it got carried away. It was the mind that invented these weapons, wasn’t it? You couldn’t imagine an animal inventing its own destruction, could you?” (102).
“This plan was perfectly well-laid; but as two of the company were later to affirm, it was traced upon loose sand, which was dispersed by the breath of egotism” (116).
“How do you turn catastrophe into art? Nowadays the process is automatic…We have to understand it, of course, this catastrophe; to understand it, we have to imagine it, so we need the imaginative arts” (125).
“Truth to life, at the start, to be sure; yet once the process gets under way, truth to art is the greater allegiance” (135).
“Whereas the response Gericault seeks is one beyond mere pity and indignation, thought these emotions might be picked up en route like hitchhikers” (136).
“…how rarely do our emotions meet the object they seem to deserve? How hopelessly we signal; how dark the sky; how big the waves” (137).
“How could the child he loved most have failed to inherit either his instincts or the opinions he had with such difficulty acquired?” (143).
“ ‘Mere novelty is no proof of value,’ his daughter had replied…” (146).
“On this prediction the doctor and the death-watch beetle had managed to agree” (147).
“Did his obstinate refusal to acknowledge the divine plan—and his careless use of the Almighty’s name even on his deathbed—mean that he was now consigned to outer darkness, to some chilly region unheated by patent stoves?” (147).
“Some fruit—like the cherry and the plum—were moulded for the mouth; others—the apple and the pear—for the hand; others still, like the melon, were made larger, so as to be divided among the family circle. Yet others, like the pumpkin, were made of a size to be shared amongst the whole neighbourhood, and many of these large fruits were marked on their outer rind with vertical divisions, so as to make apportionment the easier” (147-148).
“Miss Logan, who would complaisantly allow the Bible to be read to her but was not diligent in turning the pages herself…” (149).
“…the hero of the Titanic was a blanket-forger and transvestite imposter; how just and appropriate, therefore, that I fed him false cricket scores” (174).
“…I was familiar with Marx’s elaboration of Hegel: history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. But I had yet to come across an illustration of this process. Years later I have still to discover a better one” (175).
“If we examine God not as protagonist and moral bully but as author of this story, we have to mark him down for plot, motivation, suspense and characterization” (177).
“(Once, taking the night train from London to Paris, I found myself in the locked sleeping compartment of a locked coach in a locked hold beneath the waterline on a cross-channel ferry; I didn’t think of Jonah at the time, but perhaps my panic was related to his…)” (178).

“ ‘Nobody rescues Matt Smeaton.’ I said I’d remember that if ever I found him dangling upside down by one toe from a ski-lift cable” (210).
“Should love be taught in school? First term: friendship; second term: tenderness; third term: passion. Why not? They teach kids how to cook and mend cars and fuck one another without getting pregnant…” (229).
“(Shall we make this distinction: that love enhances the confidence, whereas sexual conquest merely develops the ego?)” (232).
“As a result, they had a lot of time on their hands. No doubt they excelled at things in which indolent societies specialize; no doubt their basketwork became rococo, their erotic skills more gymnastical, their use of crushed leaves to induce stupefying trances increasingly efficient” (233).
“As they staggered out of their tepees and another faultless day came smooching in from the Pacific…” (233).
“I can’t tell you who to love, or how to love: those school courses would be how-not-not-to as much as how-to classes (it’s like creative writing—you can’t teach them how to write or what to write, only usefully point out where they’re going wrong and save time)” (238).
“Because the history of the world, which only stops at the half-house of love to bulldoze it into rubble, is ridiculous without it” (238).
“History isn’t what happened. History is just what historians tell us” (240).
“Show me the tyrants who have been great lovers. By which I don’t mean great fuckers; we all know about power as an aphrodisiac (an auto-aphrodisiac too). Even our democratic hero Kennedy serviced women like an assembly-line worker spraying car bodies” (241).
“You can deal with the brain, as I say; it looks sensible. Whereas the heart, the human heart, I’m afraid, looks a fucking mess” (242).
“What is a violin made of? Bits of wood and bits of sheep’s intestine. Does its construction demean and banalize the music? On the contrary, it exalts the music further” (243).
“Our current model for the universe is entropy, which at the daily level translates as: things fuck up” (244).
“…his right hand discovered the fatigue of congratulation” (255).
“There was a knock on the door and a woman came in, sideways and backwards at the same time. It should have looked awkward but it didn’t; no, it was all smooth and stylish. She was carrying a tray, which was why she’d come in like that” (281).
“The sausage: again, not a tube of lukewarm horsemeat stuffed into a French letter, but dark umber and succulent…a…sausage, that’s the only word for it. All the others, the ones I’d thought I’d enjoyed in my previous life, were merely practicing to be like this; they’d been auditioning—and they wouldn’t get the part, either” (282).
“ ‘It seems to me,’ I went on, ‘that Heaven’s a very good idea, it’s a perfect idea you could say, but not for us. Not given the way we are’” (307).




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