What do you think?
Rate this book
320 pages, Paperback
First published September 21, 1995
“Inside the library, the myriad fiery shining points of light threw vast shadows of the fir branches onto the high walls and even across the ceiling. In the warmth the room breathed even more deeply, more resinously, more greenly”
“making a living by selling sepia drawings of distant prospects and bends in the river with reliably grazing cattle”
“The Freifrau felt trapped between the two of them, like a powder of thinly ground mill between the millstones”
“When Fritz had been born, sickly and stupid, she had been given the blame and had accepted it. When after months of low fever he had become tall and thin, and they said a genius, she had not been given any credit and had not expected any
“An extraordinary notion came to the Freifrau Auguste that she might take advantage of the moment, which in its half darkness and fragrance seemed ti her to almost sacred, to talk to her eldest son about herself. All that she had to say could be put quite shortly, she was forty-five and she did not see how she was going to get through the rest of her life.”
“consulted the ledgers only to see that they confirmed the dates and figures he had given. “They would not dare do otherwise” thought Fritz
“I am glancing round the table and assessing the presence, or absence, of true soul in the countenance of everyone here” [said Hoffman]
“Ach.. I should not think you are often asked out to dinner twice”
‘Gentlemen! Look at the washbasket! Let your thought be the washbasket! Have you thought the washbasket? Now then, gentlemen, let your thought be on that that thought the washbasket!’
‘Let me read it through once to myself.’ Then she asked, ‘What did the young woman look like?’
‘That doesn’t matter. What matters is that she opened the door.’
We'd spent the entire afternoon at loggerheads, settling at the last minute by a single vote for William Golding's Darkness Visible, by which time the atmosphere had grown so heated that I said I'd sooner resign than have any part in a panel that picked a minor Golding over a major imaginative breakthrough by Naipaul. So we compromised by giving the prize to everybody's second choice.
I have tried, in describing these books of mine, to say something about my life. In my last two novels I have taken a journey outside of myself. Innocence takes place in Italy in the late 1950s. The Beginning of Spring in Moscow in 1913. Most writers, including the greatest, feel the need to do something like this sooner or later. The temptation comes to take what seems almost like a vacation in another country and above all in another time. V. S. Prichett, however, has pointed out that “a professional writer who spends his time becoming other people and places, real or imaginary, finds he has written his life away and become almost nothing.” This is a warning that has to be taken seriously. I can only say that however close I’ve come, by this time, to nothingness, I have remained true to my deepest convictions—I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as a comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?