The Sense of an Ending Quotes

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The Sense of an Ending The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
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The Sense of an Ending Quotes (showing 1-30 of 165)
“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“What you end up remembering isn't always the same as what you have witnessed.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“We live in time - it holds us and molds us - but I never felt I understood it very well. And I'm not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing - until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“I certainly believe we all suffer damage, one way or another. How could we not,except in a world of perfect parents, siblings, neighbours, companions? And then there is the question on which so much depends, of how we react to the damage: whether we admit it or repress it,and how this affects our dealings with others.Some admit the damage, and try to mitigate it;some spend their lives trying to help others who are damaged; and there are those whose main concern is to avoid further damage to themselves, at whatever cost. And those are the ones who are ruthless, and the ones to be careful of.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“When you're young - when I was young - you want your emotions to be like the ones you read about in books. You want them to overturn your life, create and define a new reality. Later, I think, you want them to do something milder, something more practical: you want them to support your life as it is and has become. You want them to tell you that things are OK. And is there anything wrong with that?”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“Yes, of course we were pretentious -- what else is youth for?”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn't all it's cracked up to be.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“Does character develop over time? In novels, of course it does: otherwise there wouldn't be much of a story. But in life? I sometimes wonder. Our attitudes and opinions change, we develop new habits and eccentricities; but that's something different, more like decoration. Perhaps character resembles intelligence, except that character peaks a little later: between twenty and thirty, say. And after that, we're just stuck with what we've got. We're on our own. If so, that would explain a lot of lives, wouldn't it? And also - if this isn't too grand a word - our tragedy.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“I remember a period in late adolescence when my mind would make itself drunk with images of adventurousness. This is how it will be when I grow up. I shall go there, do this, discover that, love her, and then her and her and her. I shall live as people in novels live and have lived. Which ones I was not sure, only that passion and danger, ecstasy and despair (but then more ecstasy) would be in attendance. However...who said that thing about "the littleness of life that art exaggerates"? There was a moment in my late twenties when I admitted that my adventurousness had long since petered out. I would never do those things adolescence had dreamt about. Instead, I mowed my lawn, I took holidays, I had my life.

But time...how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but we were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time...give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“I know this much: that there is objective time, but also subjective time, the kind you wear on the inside of your wrist, next to where the pulse lies. And this personal time, which is the true time, is measured in your relationship to memory.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“History isn't the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It's more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious or defeated.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“That's one of the central problems of history, isn't it, sir? The question of subjective versus objective interpretation, the fact that we need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“I thought of the things that had happened to me over the years, and of how little I had made happen.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“I had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded - and how pitiful that was.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“And no, it wasn't shame I now felt, or guilt, but something rarer in my life and stronger than both: remorse. A feeling which is more complicated, curdled, and primeval. Whose chief characteristic is that nothing can be done about it: too much time has passed, too much damage has been done, for amends to be made.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“What did I know of life, I who had lived so carefully? Who had neither won nor lost, but just let life happen to him? Who had the usual ambitions and settled all too quickly for them not being realised? Who avoided being hurt and called it a capacity for survival? Who paid his bills, stayed on good terms with everyone as far as possible, for whom ecstasy and despair soon became just words once read in novels? One whose self-rebukes never really inflicted pain? Well, there was all this to reflect upon, while I endured a special kind of remorse: a hurt inflicted at long last on one who always thought he knew how to avoid being hurt - and inflicted for precisely that reason.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“The more you learn, the less you fear. "Learn" not in the sense of academic study, but in the practical understanding of life.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“Also, when you are young, you think you can predict the likely pains and bleaknesses that age might bring. You imagine yourself being lonely, divorced, widowed; children growing away from you, friends dying. You imagine the loss of status, the loss of desire – and desirability. You may go further and consider your own approaching death, which, despite what company you may muster, can only be faced alone. But all this is looking ahead. What you fail to do is look ahead, and then imagine yourself looking back from the future point. Learning the new emotions that time brings. Discovering, for example, that as the witnesses to your life diminish, there is less corroboration, and therefore less certainty, as to what you are or have been. Even if you have assiduously kept records – in words, sound, pictures – you may find that you have attended to the wrong kind of record-keeping. What was the line Adrian used to quote? 'History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“Life seemed even more of a guessing game than usual.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“What is history? Any thoughts, Webster?'

'History is the lies of the victors,' I replied, a little too quickly.

'Yes, I was rather afraid you'd say that. Well, as long as you remember that it is also the self-delusions of the defeated. ...

'Finn?'

'"History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation." (quoting Patrick Lagrange)”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“We live with such easy assumptions, don't we? For instance, that memory equals events plus time. But it's all much odder than this. Who was it said that memory is what we thought we'd forgotten? And it ought to be obvious to us that time doesn't act as a fixative, rather as a solvent. But it's not convenient--- it's not useful--- to believe this; it doesn't help us get on with our lives; so we ignore it.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“In my terms, I settled for the realities of life, and submitted to its necessities: if this, then that, and so the years passed. In Adrian's terms, I gave up on life, gave up on examining it, took it as it came. And so, for the first time, I began to feel a more general remorse - a feeling somewhere between self-pity and self-hatred - about my whole life. All of it. I had lost the friends of my youth. I had lost the love of my wife. I had abandoned the ambitions I had entertained. I had wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded - and how pitiful that was.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature. Look at our parents--were they the stuff of Literature? At best, they might aspire to the condition of onlookers and bystanders, part of a social backdrop against which real, true, important things could happen. Like what? The things Literature was about: Love, sex, morality, friendship, happiness, suffering, betrayal, adultery, good and evil, heroes and villains, guilt and innocence, ambition, power, justice, revolution, war, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, the individual against society, success and failure, murder, suicide, death, God.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“Later on in life, you expect a bit of rest, don't you? You think you deserve it. I did, anyway. But then you begin to understand that the reward of merit is not life's business.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
“But I’ve been turning over in my mind the question of nostalgia, and whether I suffer from it. I certainly don’t get soggy at the memory of some childhood knickknack; nor do I want to deceive myself sentimentally about something that wasn’t even true at the time—love of the old school, and so on. But if nostalgia means the powerful recollection of strong emotions—and a regret that such feelings are no longer present in our lives—then I plead guilty.”
Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

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