Nutshell Quotes

Rate this book
Clear rating
Nutshell Nutshell by Ian McEwan
37,974 ratings, 3.67 average rating, 4,870 reviews
Nutshell Quotes Showing 1-30 of 98
“A strange mood has seized the almost-educated young. They're on the march, angry at times, but mostly needful, longing for authority's blessing, its validation of their chosen identities. The decline of the West in new guise perhaps. Or the exaltation and liberation of the self. A social-media site famously proposes seventy-one gender options – neutrois, two spirit, bigender…any colour you like, Mr Ford. Biology is not destiny after all, and there's cause for celebration. A shrimp is neither limiting nor stable. I declare my undeniable feeling for who I am. If I turn out to be white, I may identify as black. And vice versa. I may announce myself as disabled, or disabled in context. If my identity is that of a believer, I'm easily wounded, my flesh torn to bleeding by any questioning of my faith. Offended, I enter a state of grace. Should inconvenient opinions hover near me like fallen angels or evil djinn (a mile being too near), I'll be in need of the special campus safe room equipped with Play-Doh and looped footage of gambolling puppies. Ah, the intellectual life! I may need advance warning if upsetting books or ideas threaten my very being by coming too close, breathing on my face, my brain, like unwholesome drugs.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Pessimism is too easy, even delicious, the badge and plume of intellectuals everywhere. It absolves the thinking classes of solutions. We excite ourselves with dark thoughts in plays, poems, novels, movies.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“It's already clear to me how much of life is forgotten even as it happens. Most of it. The unregarded present spooling away from us, the soft tumble of unremarkable thoughts, the long-neglected miracle of existence.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“However close you get to others, you can never get inside them, even when you're inside them.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“In science too, one dedicates his life to an Albanian snail, another to a virus. Darwin gave eight years to barnacles. And in wise later life, to earthworms. The Higgs boson, a tiny thing, perhaps not even a thing, was the lifetime's pursuit of thousands. To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavor, is just a speck in the universe of possible things. And even this universe may be a speck in a multitude of actual and possible universes.
So why not be an owl poet?”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“But even I know that love doesn't steer by logic, nor is power distributed evenly. Lovers arrive at their first kisses with scars as wells as longings. They're not always looking for advantage. Some need shelter, others press only for the hyperreality of ecstasy, for which they'll tell outrageous lies or make irrational sacrifice. But they rarely ask themselves what they need or want. Memories are poor for past failures. Childhoods shine through adult skin, helpfully or not. So do the laws of inheritance that bind a personality. The lovers don't know there's no free will. I haven't heard enough radio drama to know more than that, though pop songs have taught me that they don't feel in December what they felt in May, and that to have a womb may be incomprehensible to those who don't and that the reverse is also true.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“But here’s life’s most limiting truth – it’s always now, always here, never then and there. And”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves, Confucius said. Revenge unstitches civilisation.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Don't unpack your heart. One detail tells the truth.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“We’ve built a world too complicated and dangerous for our quarrelsome natures to manage. In such hopelessness, the general vote will be for the supernatural. It’s dusk in the second Age of Reason. We were wonderful, but now we are doomed.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“When love dies and marriage lies in ruins, the first casualty is honest memory, decent, impartial recall of the past. Too inconvenient, too damning of the present. It's the spectre of old happiness at the feast of failure and desolation. So, against that headwind of forgetfulness I want to place my little candle of truth and see how far it throws its light.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Not everyone knows what it is to have your father’s rival’s penis inches from your nose.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“No child, still less a fetus, has ever mastered the art of small talk, or would ever want to. It's an adult device, a covenant with boredom and deceit.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Revenge may be exacted a hundred times over in one sleepless night. The impulse, the dreaming intention, is human, normal, and we should forgive ourselves. But the raised hand, the actual violent enactment, is cursed. The maths says so. There’ll be no reversion to the status quo ante, no balm, no sweet relief, or none that lasts. Only a second crime. Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves, Confucius said. Revenge unstitches a civilisation. It’s a reversion to constant, visceral fear.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“There are not many options for the evening that follows an afternoon of drinking. Only two in fact; remorse, or more drinking and then remorse.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Lovers arrive at their first kisses with scars as well as longings. They're not always looking for advantage. Some need shelter, others press only for the hyperreality of ecstasy, for which they'll tell outrageous lies or make irrational sacrifice. But they rarely ask themselves what they need or want.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“So here I am, upside down in a woman.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
tags: woman
“I've heard it argued that long ago pain begat consciousness...Adversity forced awareness on us, and it works, it bites us when we go too near the fire, when we love too hard. Those felt sensations are the beginning of the invention of the self...God said, Let there be pain. And there was poetry. Eventually.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Adversity forced awareness on us, and it works, it bites us when we go too near the fire, when we love too hard. Those felt sensations are the beginning of the invention of the self. And if that works, why not feeling disgust for shit, fearing the cliff edge and strangers, remembering insults and favours, liking sex and food? God said, Let there be pain. And there was poetry. Eventually.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“You may never have experienced, or you will have forgotten, a good burgundy (her favourite) or a good Sancerre (also her favourite) decanted through a healthy placenta.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“In the middle of a long, quiet night I might give my mother a sharp kick. She'll wake, become insomniac, reach for the radio. Cruel sport, I know, but we are both better informed by the morning.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“My immediate neighbourhood will not be palmy Norway – my first choice on account of its gigantic sovereign fund and generous social provision; nor my second, Italy, on grounds of regional cuisine and sun-blessed decay; and not even my third, France, for its Pinot Noir and jaunty self-regard. Instead I’ll inherit a less than united kingdom ruled by an esteemed elderly queen, where a businessman-prince, famed for his good works, his elixirs (cauliflower essence to purify the blood) and unconstitutional meddling, waits restively for his crown. This will be my home, and it will do. I”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“We're alone then, all of us, even me, each treading a deserted highway, toting in a bundle on a shouldered stick the schemes, the flow charts, for unconscious advancement.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Unless, unless, unless--a wisp of a word, ghostly token of altered fate, bleating little iamb of hope, it drifts across my thoughts like a floater in the vitreous humour of an eye. Mere hope.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“But here’s life’s most limiting truth - it’s always now, always here, never then and there.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Wine after three glasses solves nothing and the pain of recent discovery remains. Still, I'm feeling a friendly touch of disassociation. I'm already some useful steps removed and see myself revealed some fifteen feet below me, like a fallen climber spreadeagled and supine on a rock. I can begin to comprehend my situation, I can think as well as feel. An unassuming New World white can do this much. So. My mother has preferred my father's brother, cheated her husband, ruined her son. My uncle has stolen his brother's wife, deceived his nephew's father, grossly insulted his sister-in-law's son. My father by nature is defenceless, as I am by circumstance. My uncle - a quarter of my genome, of my father's half, but no more like my father than I to Virgil or Montaigne. What despicable part of myself is Claude and how will I know? I could be my own brother and deceive myself as he deceived his. When I'm born and allowed at last to be alone, there's a quarter I'll want to take a kitchen knife to. But the one who holds the knife will also be my uncle, quartering in my genome. Then we'll see how the knife won't move. And this perception too is somewhat his. And this.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“When love dies and a marriage lies in ruins, the first casualty is honest memory, decent, impartial recall of the past. Too inconvenient, too damning of the present. It's the spectre of old happiness at the feast of failure and desolation.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“It's not the theme parks of Paradiso and Inferno that I dread most - the heavenly rides, the hellish crowds - and I could live with the insult of eternal oblivion. I don't even mind not knowing which it will be. What I fear is missing out. Health desire or mere greed, I want my life first, my due, my infinitesimal slice of endless time and one reliable chance of a consciousness. I'm owed a handful of decades to try my luck on a freewheeling planet. That's the ride for me - the Wall of Life. I want my go. I want to become. Put another way, there's a book I want to read, not yet published, not yet written, though a start's been made. I want to read to the end of My History of the Twenty-First Century. I want to be there, on the last page, in my early eighties, frail but sprightly, dancing a jig on the evening of December 31, 2099.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves, Confucius said. Revenge unstitches a civilisation.”
Ian McEwan, Nutshell

« previous 1 3 4