Christopher Isherwood Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 97 quotes)
He crosses the front room, which he calls his study, and comes down the staircase. The stairs turn a corner; they are narrow and steep. You can touch both handrails with your elbows, and you have to bend your head, even if, like George, you are only five eight. This is a tightly planned little house. He often feels protected by its smallness; there is hardly room enough here to feel lonely. Nevertheless.
The living room is dark and low-ceilinged, with bookshelves all along the wall opposite the windows. These books have not made George nobler or better or more truly wise. It is just that he likes listening to their voices, the one or the other, according to his mood. He misuses them quite ruthlessly - despite the respectful way he has to talk about them in public - to put him to sleep, to take his mind off the hands of the clock, to relax the nagging of his pyloric spasm, to gossip him out of his melancholy, to trigger the conditioned reflexes of his colon.
But George is getting old. Won't it very soon be too late?Never use those words to George. He won't listen. He daren't listen. Damn the future. Let Kenny and the kids have it. Let Charley keep the past. George clings only to Now. It is Now that he must find another Jim. Now that he must love. Now that he must live....
Just suppose that the dead do revisit the living. That something approximately to be described as Jim can return to see how George is making out. Would this be at all satisfactory? Would it even be worthwhile? At best, surely, it would be like the brief visit of an observer from another country who is permitted to peep in for a moment from the vast outdoors of his freedom and see, at a distance, through glass, this figure who sits solitary at the small table in the narrow room, eating his poached eggs humbly and dully, a prisoner for life.
The talk of pale, burning-eyed students, anarchists and utopians all, over tea and cigarettes in a locked room long past midnight, is next morning translated, with the literalness of utter innocence, into the throwing of the bomb, the shouting of the proud slogan, the dragging away of the young dreamer-doer, still smiling, to the dungeon and the firing squad.
Sometimes Arthur talked about his childhood. As a boy he was delicate and had never been sent to school. An only son, he lived alone with his widowed mother, whom me adored. Together they studied literature and art; together they visted Paris, Baden-Baden, Rome, moving always in the best society, from Schloss to chteau, from chteau to palace, gentle, charming, appreciative; in a state of perpeutal tender anxiety about each other's health.
The more I think about myself, the more I'm persuaded that, as a person, I really don't exist. That is one of the reasons why I can't believe in any orthodox religion: I cannot believe in my own soul. No, I am a chemical compound, conditioned by environment and education. My "character" is simply a repertoire of acquired tricks, my conversation a repertoire of adaptations and echoes, my "feelings" are dictated by purely physical, external stimuli.
He pictures the evening he might have spent, snugly at home, fixing the food he has bought, then lying down on the couch beside the bookcase and reading himself slowly sleepy. At first glance this is an absolutely convincing and charming scene of domestic contentment. Only after a few instants does George notice the omission that makes it meaningless. What is left out of the picture is Jim, lying opposite him at the other end of the couch, also reading; the two of them absorbed in their books yet so completely aware of each other's presence.
A veteran, calm and assured, he pauses for a well-measured moment in the doorway of the office and then, boldly, clearly, with the subtly modulated British intonation which his public demands of him, speaks his opening line, 'Good morning!'And the three secretaries - each of them a charming and accomplished actress in her own chosen style - recognise him instantly, without even a flicker of doubt, and reply 'Good morning' to him. (There is something religious here, like responses in church; a reaffirmation of faith in the basic American dogma, that it is, always, a Good Morning. Good, despite the Russians and their rockets, and all the ills and worries of the flesh. For of course we know, don't we, that the Russians and the worries are not real? They can be unsought and made to vanish. And therefore the morning can ve made to be good. Very well then, it is good.
These books have not made George nobler or better or more truly wise. It is just that he likes listening to their voices, the one or the other, acording to his mood. He misuses them quite ruthlessly - despite the respectful way he has to talk about them in public - to put him to bed, to take his mind off the hands of the clock, to relax the nagging of his pyloric spasm, to gossip him out of his melancholy, to trigger the conditioned reflexes of his colon.
In ten minutes they will have arrived on campus. George will have to be George; the George they have named and will recognise. So now he consciously applies himself to thinking their thoughts, getting into their mood. With the skill of a veteran, he rapidly puts on the psychological makeup for this role he must play.
Christ, it is sad, sad to see on quite a few of these faces - young ones particularly - a glum, defeated look. Why do they feel this way about their lives? Sure, they are underpaid. Sure, they have no great prospects, in the commercial sense. Sure, they can't enjoy the bliss of mingling with corporation executives. But isn't it any consolation to be with students who are still three-quarters alive? Isn't it some tiny satisfaction to be of use, instead of helping to turn out useless consumer goods? Isn't it something to know that you belong to one of the few professions in this country which isn't hopelessly corrupt?
Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face - the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man - all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead. Their message to this live dying creature is: Look at us - we have died - what is there to be afraid of? It answers them: But that happened so gradually, so easily. I'm afraid of being rushed.
By the time it has gotten dressed, it has become he; has become already more or less George — though still not the whole George they demand and are prepared to recognize. Those who call him on the phone at this hour of the morning would be bewildered, maybe even scared, if they could realize what this three-quarters-human thing is what they are talking to. But, of course, they never could—its voice's mimicry of their George is nearly perfect.
Chalmers, like many of the English writers whom he then most admired, felt a strong natural sympathy with everything French. At Rouen he imagined himself as having escaped into a world in which it was possible to speak openly and unaffectedly of all those subjects which in England must be introduced by an apology or guarded with a sneer - poetry, metaphysics, romantic love.
Here, in their midst, George feels a sort of vertigo. Oh God, what will become of them all? What chance have they? Ought I to yell out to them, right now, here, that it’s hopeless? But George knows he can’t do that. Because, absurdly, inadequately, in spite of himself, almost, he is a representative of the hope. And the hope is not false. No. It’s just that George is like a man trying to sell a real diamond for a nickel, on the street. The diamond is protected from all but the tiniest few, because the great hurrying majority can never stop to dare to believe that it could conceivably be real.