Shadow & Claw Quotes

Rate this book
Clear rating
Shadow & Claw (The Book of the New Sun #1-2) Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe
13,809 ratings, 4.03 average rating, 886 reviews
Open Preview
Shadow & Claw Quotes (showing 1-30 of 57)
“People don't want other people to be people.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges. When soldiers take their oath they are given a coin, an asimi stamped with the profile of the Autarch. Their acceptance of that coin is their acceptance of the special duties and burdens of military life—they are soldiers from that moment, though they may know nothing of the management of arms. I did not know that then, but it is a profound mistake to believe that we must know of such things to be influenced by them, and in fact to believe so is to believe in the most debased and superstitious kind of magic. The would-be sorcerer alone has faith in the efficacy of pure knowledge; rational people know that things act of themselves or not at all.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Weak people believe what is forced on them. Strong people what they wish to believe, forcing that to be real.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“There is no magic. There is only knowledge, more or less hidden.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“When a gift is deserved, it is not a gift but a payment.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“No intellect is needed to see those figures who wait beyond the void of death – every child is aware of them, blazing with glories dark or bright, wrapped in authority older than the universe. They are the stuff of our earliest dreams, as of our dying visions. Rightly we feel our lives guided by them, and rightly too we feel how little we matter to them, the builders of the unimaginable, the fighters of wars beyond the totality of existence.

The difficulty lies in learning that we ourselves encompass forces equally great. We say, “I will,” and “I will not,” and imagine ourselves (though we obey the orders of some prosaic person every day) our own masters, when the truth is that our masters are sleeping. One wakes within us and we are ridden like beasts, though the rider is but some hitherto unguessed part of ourselves.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Hope is a psychological mechanism unaffected by external realities.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Year followed struggling year for me, and all that time I read--I suppose few have ever read so. I began, as most young people do, by reading the books I enjoyed. But I found that narrowed my pleasure...”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Time turns our lies into truths.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“And it came to me that these trees had been hardly smaller when I was yet unborn, and had stood as they stood now when I was a child playing among the cypresses and peaceful tombs of our necropolis, and that they would stand yet, drinking in the light of the dying sun, even as now, when I had been dead as long as those who rested there. I saw how little it weighed on the scale of things whether I lived or died, though my life was precious to me. And of those two thoughts I forged a mood by which I stood ready to grasp each smallest chance to live, yet in which I cared not too much whether I saved myself or not. By that mood, as I think, I did live; it has been so good a friend to me that I have endeavored to wear it ever since, succeeding not always, but often.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Certain mystes aver that the real world has been constructed by the human mind, since our ways are governed by the artificial categories into which we place essentially undifferentiated things, things weaker than our words for them.
[...]
We believe we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Just when I despaired -- she was there, filling me as a melody fills a cottage. I was with her, running beside the Acis when we were a child. I knew the ancient villa moated by a dark lake, the view through the dusty windows of the belvedere, and the secret space in the odd angle between two rooms where we sat at noon to read by candlelight. I knew the life of the Autarch's court, where poison waited in a diamond cup. I learned what it was for one who had never seen a cell or felt a whip to be a prisoner of the torturers, what dying meant, and death.

I learned that I had been more to her than I had ever guessed, and at last fell into a sleep in which my dreams were all of her. Not memories merely -- memories I had possessed in plenty before. I held her poor, cold hands in mine, and I no longer wore the rags of an apprentice, nor the fuligin of a journeyman. We were one, naked and happy and clean, and we knew that she was no more and that I still lived, and we struggled against neither of those things, but with woven hair read from a single book and talked and sang of other matters.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“The picture he was cleaning showed an armored figure standing in a desolate landscape. It had no weapon, but held a staff bearing a strange, stiff banner. The visor of this figure’s helmet was entirely of gold, without eye slits or ventilation; in its polished surface the deathly desert could be seen in reflection, and nothing more.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“A crowd is not the sum of the individuals who compose it. Rather it is a species of animal, without language or real consciousness, born when they gather, dying when they depart.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Certain mystes aver that the real world has been constructed by the human mind, since our ways are governed by the artificial categories into which we place essentially undifferentiated things, things weaker than our words for them.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“For an instant she hesitated. Baldanders said, 'You may trust him. The doctor has his own way of looking at the world, but he lies less than people believe.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“It’s a pity you are a torturer,” Ultan said. “You might have been a philosopher.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“It had been washed clean of beauty. In the final reckoning there is only love, only that divinity. That we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Some days passed before I could rid my thoughts of Thecla of certain impressions belonging to the false Thecla who had initiated me into the anacreontic diversions and fruitions of men and women. Possibly this had an effect opposite to that Master Gurloes intended, but I do not think so. I believe I was never less inclined to love the unfortunate woman than when I carried in my memory the recent impressions of having enjoyed her freely; it was as I saw it more and more clearly for the untruth it was that I felt myself drawn to redress the fact, and drawn through her (though I was hardly conscious of it at the time) to the world of ancient knowledge an privilege she represented. The books I has carried to her became my university, she my oracle.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“I nodded and grasped the woman by the arm; the cataphracts released her and turned away like silver automata.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“A foreboding grew on me; I sensed that if I did not reply, some tragedy would occur. At last I began weakly, “Anarchy …” “That is not governance, but the lack of it. I taught you that it precedes all governance. Now list the seven sorts.” “Attachment to the person of the monarch. Attachment to a bloodline or other sequence of succession. Attachment to the royal state. Attachment to a code legitimizing the governing state. Attachment to the law only. Attachment to a greater or lesser board of electors, as framers of the law. Attachment to an abstraction conceived as including the body of electors, other bodies giving rise to them, and numerous other elements, largely ideal.” “Tolerable. Of these, which is the earliest form, and which the highest?” “The development is in the order given, Master,” I said. “But I do not recall that you ever asked before which was highest.” Master Malrubius leaned forward, his eyes burning brighter than the coals of the fire. “Which is highest, Severian?”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“You have understood me better than I wanted, as the man said when he looked in the mirror.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“You have come from the Citadel—I know, you see, something of your journeyings and history—that great fortress of bygone days, so you must possess some feeling for the past. Has it never struck you that mankind was richer by far, and happier too, a chiliad gone than it is now?” “Everyone knows,” I said, “that we have fallen far from the brave days of the past.” “As it was then, so shall it be again. Men of Urth, sailing between the stars, leaping from galaxy to galaxy, the masters of the daughters of the sun.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“And when he beheld their dark sails, smutted by the burning tar that had blinded their enemy, he believed them blackened in mourning for the young man, and he threw himself down, and so perished. For no man lives long when his dreams are dead.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“He paused, and I knew he was delving again in a mind larger and darker than even his great library.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Life, after all, is not a high thing, and in many ways is the reverse of purity. I am wise now, if not much older, and I know it is better to have all things, high and low, than to have the high only.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“The green man said, “I’m a fool, I suppose, to put any confidence in you. And yet I do. I am a free man, come from your own future to explore your age.” “That is impossible.” “The green color that puzzles your people so much is only what you call pond scum. We have altered it until it can live in our blood, and by its intervention have at last made our peace in humankind’s long struggle with the sun. In us, the tiny plants live and die, and our bodies feed from them and their dead and require no other nourishment. All the famines, and all the labor of growing food, are ended.” “But you must have sun.” “Yes,” the green man said. “And I have not enough here.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“Do you not believe that you deserve to die painfully?” “By the revolutionary,” I said, hoping that if I asked that death as a favor it would not be granted. “Yes, that would be fitting. But …” And here he paused. The moment passed, then two. The first brass-backed fly of the new summer buzzed against the port. I wanted to crush it, to catch and release it, to shout at Master Palaemon to speak, to flee from the room; but I could do none of these things. I sat, instead, in the old wooden chair beside his table, feeling that I was already dead but still must die.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw
“She sighed, and all the gladness went out of her face, as the sunlight leaves the stone where a beggar seeks to warm himself.”
Gene Wolfe, Shadow & Claw

« previous 1