It was if I were seeking the nature of a verb which had no infinitive, only tense and mode.
— Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
Mornings like this prove that you really have to be mad ever to kill yourself. Contemplate it by all means, but never commit to it. Life can improve beyond recognition in the space of a moment.
— Geoff Dyer, Forbidden City
The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno which we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it.
The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognise who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.
— Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
In one enciphering corner of my mind I believe still that every line in every poem is the orphaned caption of a lost photograph.
— Teju Cole, Blind Spot
Como los seres vivos, las novelas crecen y, a menudo, envejecen y mueren. Las que sobreviven cambian de piel y de ser, como las serpientes y los gusanos que se vuelven mariposas.
— Mario Vargas Llosa, El extranjero debe morir
You’re still young, Julius. You must be careful about closing too many doors. I had no idea what he was talking about, and I simply nodded when he said this, and watched his spidery hands slowly dancing around each other in that gloomy room.
— Teju Cole, Open City
Oedipa, perverse, had stood in front of the painting and cried. No one had noticed; she wore dark green bubble shades. For a moment she’d wondered if the seal around her sockets were tight enough to allow the tears simply to go on and fill up the entire lens space and never dry. She could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry.
— Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
“You were always like this. I kept waiting for you to give it up, let it go, turn as cold as the rest of us, praying all the time you wouldn’t. You’d come back from school, history classes, some new nightmare, the Indians, the Holocaust, crimes I hardened my heart against years ago, taught them but didn’t feel them so much anymore, and you’d be so angry, passionately hurting, your little hands in fists, how could anybody do these things, how could they live with themselves? What was I supposed to say? We handed you the tissues and said, it’s grown-ups, some act that way, you don’t have to be like them, you can be better. Best we could ever come up with, pathetic, but you know what, I never found out what we should have said. Think I’m happy about that?”
”The boys ask the same things now, I don’t want to see them turn into their classmates, cynical smart-mouthed little bastards — but what happens if Ziggy and Otis start caring too much, pop, this world, it could destroy them, so easily.”
— Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge
Most prophecies, when specific, are bound to be bad, for, throughout history, there are always new terrors — even if a few disappear, yet there are no new happinesses — happiness is always the old one. It is the modes of struggle for this happiness which change.
— John Berger, on Hieronymous Bosch
One must name everything one sees for what it is. Never stop looking at consequences. The only chance against barbarism. To see consequences.
— John Berger, on Francisco de Goya
I’m tired of the news. I’m tired of the way it makes things spectacular that aren’t, and deals so simplistically with what’s truly appalling. I’m tired of the vitriol. I’m tired of the anger. I’m tired of the meanness. I’m tired of the selfishness. I’m tired of how we’re doing nothing to stop it. I’m tired of how we’re encouraging it. I’m tired of the violence there is and I’m tired of the violence that’s on its way, that’s coming, that hasn’t happened yet. I’m tired of liars. I’m tired of sanctified liars. I’m tired of how those liars have let this happen. I’m tired of how having to wonder whether they did it out of stupidity or did it on purpose. I’m tired of lying governments. I’m tired of people not caring whether they’re being lied to any more. I’m tired of being made to feel this fearful. I’m tired of animosity. I’m tired of pussilanimosity.
I don’t think that’s actually a word, Elisabeth says.
I’m tired of not knowing the right words, her mother says.
— Ali Smith, Autumn
He gets his phone out. But then he remembers he doesn’t want to switch his phone on.
He puts it face down next to his plate and frowns.
Google, his mother says. The new new found land. Not so long ago it was only the mentally deranged, the unworldly pedants, the imperialists and the naivest of schoolchildren who believed that encyclopaediae gave you any equivalence for the actual world, or any real understanding of it. And door-to-door salesmen sold them, and they were never to be trusted. And even the authorised encyclopaediae, even them we never mistook for or accepted as any real knowledge of the world. But now the world trusts search engines without a thought. The canniest door-to-door salesmen ever invented. Never mind foot in the door. Already right at the heart of the house.
— Ali Smith, Winter
Like you banged your head on the world, Lux says. You’re like the dictionary doctor.
The what? he says.
Kicking the big stone with his foot, she says, to prove that reality is reality and that reality physically exists. I refute it thus.
Who? Art says.
The literature doctor, she says. The man who wrote the dictionary. Johnson. Not Boris. The opposite of Boris. A man interested in the meanings of words, not one whose interests leave words meaningless.
How do you know all this stuff? he says.
— Ali Smith, Winter
Copyright under Getty Images,  New Statesman

Copyright under Getty Images, New Statesman

I’m seeing a bus, Art says.
I’m seeing a bus too, Lux says.
Art pulls his clothes on. When they get to the house the bus is parked on the drive, its door open. Lux knocks on the bus’s metal side.
I refute it bus, she says.
— Ali Smith, Winter
how could she know to make a joke as complex as I refute it bus.
How could she know more about his own culture than he did, and such interesting things, and not just know them but know them so well that she could make jokes, make jokes about a culture that isn’t her culture and in a language that isn’t her first language?
— Ali Smith, Winter
But if you believe that you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.
— Theresa May, 5 October 2016
[…] la soledad es imposible, pues está poblada de fantasmas.
— Enrique Vila-Matas, Suicidios ejemplares
There, rest. No more suffering for you. I know where you’ve gone, it’s good.
— Allen Ginsberg, Kaddish
Which way will the sunflower turn surrounded by millions of suns?
— Allen Ginsberg, Poem Rocket
[…] que veía los esfuerzos y los sueños, todos confundidos en un mismo fracaso, y que ese fracaso se llamaba alegría.
— Roberto Boleño, Los detectives salvajes
… to feel at home nowhere, but at ease almost everywhere.
— Georges Perec, Species of Spaces
Space seems to be either tamer or more inoffensive than time; we’re forever meeting people who have watches, very seldom people who have compasses. We always need to know what time it is […] but we never ask ourselves where we are.
— Georges Perec, Species of Spaces
His [Rousseau’s] confidence and credulity and good-naturedness survived, survived […] because he was able to dismiss the corruption of the world around him as an absurd accident.
— John Berger
to read was to drive a knife into their lives
— Susan Sontag, Pilgrimage
Muchos opinan que la inteligencia es un estorbo para la felicidad. El verdadero estorbo es la imaginación.
— Adolfo Bioy Casares, Máscaras venecianas
[…] because he knew that the whole place […] was outside the world […] and that was what was so wonderful about both the land and the people, and that nobody was really aware of the danger presented by the proximity of the world, […]
— László Krasznahorkai, The last wolf
All we are left with is a sort of short-circuit which has disrupted all dialogue with reality, in favour of a monologue between mirrors.
— Luigi Ghirri, 1985
That night there were no conversations, prayers or stories around the fire, as if the nearby presence of Jerusalem demanded respectful silence, each man searching his heart and asking, Who is this person who resembles me yet whom I fail to recognize? This is not, in fact, what they actually said, for people do not start speaking to themselves just like that, nor was this consciously in their minds, but there can be no doubt that this silence, as we sit quietly staring into the flames of a camp-fire, can only be expressed with words like these which say everything.
— José Saramago, The Gospel according to Jesus Christ
For no one can tell who will triumph tomorrow, some say God, others say nobody, one hypothesis is as good as the other because to speak of yesterday, today and tomorrow is simply to give different names to the same illusion.
— José Saramago, The Gospel according to Jesus Christ
The dream is the thought that wasn’t thought when it should have been, and now it haunts me night after night and I can’t forget it.
— José Saramago, The Gospel according to Jesus Christ
In spring the garden urns, casually filled with windblown plants, were gay as ever. Violets came and daffodils. But the stillness and the brightness of the day were as strange as the chaos and tumult of night, with the trees standing there, and the flowers standing there, looking before them, looking up, yet beholding nothing, eyeless, and so terrible.
— Virginia Woolf, To the lighthouse
What was it then? What did it mean? Could things thrust their hands up and grip one; could the blade cut; the fist grasp? Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle, and leaping from the pinnacle of a tower into the air? Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life? — startling, unexpected, unknown? For one moment she felt that if they both got up, here, now on the lawn, and demanded an explanation, why was it so short, why was it so inexplicable, said it with violence, as two fully equipped human beings from whom nothing should be hid might speak, then beauty would roll itself up; the space would fill; those empty flourishes would form into shape; if they shouted loud enough Mrs Ramsay would return. ‘Mrs Ramsay!’ she said aloud, “Mrs Ramsay!’ The tears ran down her face.
— Virginia Woolf, To the lighthouse
Emilia does not answer. It is like a bird landing on your arm in the garden. You can only stand still and hope in vain that time does the same.
— Mark Haddon, The porpoise
All too often, artworks are written about and spoken of as moments in the artist’s life. Really they are moments in ours, for that is where meaning is made … Perhaps this is why the thousands of photographic images presented to us in daily life expect to be given only a glance. If we dwelt too long on any of them, it would become mysterious and incapable of performing its dim-witted task.
— David Campany on Jeff Wall, FT Magazine 2019
Here is the thing: we give ourselves such a hard time over the wrong things. I like people and I like humanity. We credit ourselves with things that we’re not and we blame ourselves for things that are out of our control. We take ourselves way too seriously and the cost is to people, and to our environment, to everything. It is strange, because in a sense, things aren’t that bad… but they are that bad. They are worse than we hope but not as bad as we fear. We operate in that gap.
— DBC Pierre, FT Magazine 2019
Y así el trabajo, el proyecto, va tomando forma, se va diservicando, crece, aunque no de forma lineal. Es como una novela, para que usted me entienda, que no empieza por el principio. De hecho, Diodoro, es una novela que, como todo novela, por otra parte, no empieza en la novela, en el objeto libro que la contiene, ¿lo entiende? Sus primeras páginas están en otro libro, o en un callejón donde se ha cometido un crimen, o en un pájaro que observa a un grupo de niños que juegan e que no lo ven a él.
— Roberto Bolaño, Comedia del horror de Francia
[…] pues la expresión de Farewell, la inmovilidad de Farewell sólo rota entonces por un ligero movimiento ocular, fue adquiriendo para mí connotaciones de terror infinito o de terror disparado hacia el inifinito, que es, por otra parte, el destino del terror, elevarse y elevarse y no terminar nunca y de ahí nuestra aflicción, de ahí nuestro desconsuelo, de ahí algunas interpretaciones de la obra de Dante, ese terror delgado como un gusano e inerme e sin embargo capaz de subir y subir […]
— Roberto Bolaño, Nocturno de Chile