J. M. Coetzee Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 123 quotes)
I remember asking John, after Dusklands, what new project he had on the go. His answer was vague. 'There is always something or the other I am working on', he said. 'If I yield to the seduction of not working, what would I do with myself? What would there be to live for? I would have to shoot myself.
...he seems to be on the brink of one of his bad spells again, one of the fits of lugubrious self-pity that turn into black gloom. He likes to think that they comes from elsewhere, episodes of bad weather that cross the sky and pass on. He prefers not to think they come from inside him and are his, part of him.
She does not reply. She would rather hide her face, and he knows why. Because of the disgrace. Because of the shame. That is what their visitors have achieved; that is what they have done to this confidant, modern young woman. Like a stain the story is spreading across the district. Not her story to spread but theirs: they are its owners. How they put her in her place, how they showed her what a woman was for.
Why should our rulers, normally phlegmatic men, react with sudden hysteria to the pinpricks of terrorism when for decades they were able to go about their everyday business unruffled, in full awareness that in a deep bunker somewhere in the Urals an enemy watched and waited with a finger on a button, ready if provoked to wipe them and their cities from the face of the earth?
But it is the knowledge of how contingent my unease is, how dependent on a baby that wails beneath my window one day and does not wail the next, that brings the worst shame to me, the greatest indifference to annihilation. I know somewhat too much; and from this knowledge, once one has been infected, there seems to be no recovering. I ought never to have taken my lantern to see what was going on in the hut by the granary. On the other hand, there was no way, once I had picked up the lantern, for me to put it down again. The knot loops in upon itself; I cannot find the end.
Anyway, said Robert, they got a big fright. After that they started dropping pellets in the water and digging latrines and spraying for flies and bringing buckets of soap. But do you think they do it because they love us? Not a hope. They prefer it that we live because we look too terrible when we get sick and die. If we grew thin and turned into paper and then into ash and floated away, they wouldn't give a stuff for us. They just don't want to get upset. They want to go to sleep feeling good.
A few days ago I heard a performance of the Sibelius fifth symphony. As the closing bars approached, I experienced exactly the large, swelling emotion that the music was written to elicit. What would it have been like, I wondered, to be a Finn in the audience at the first performance of the symphony in Helsinki nearly a century ago, and feel that swell overtake one? The answer: one would have felt proud, proud that one of us could put together such sounds, proud that out of nothing we human beings can make such stuff. Contrast with that ones feelings of shame that we, our people, have made Guantanamo. Musical creation on the one hand, a machine for inflicting pain and humiliation on the other: the best and the worst that human beings are capable of.
How many of the ragged workingmen who pass him in the street are secret authors of works that will outlast them: roads, walls, pylons? Immortality of a kind, a limited immortality, is not so hard to achieve after all. Why then does he persist in inscribing marks on paper, in the faint hope that people not yet born will take the trouble to decipher them?
It seemed to me that all things were possible on the island, all tyrannies and cruelties, though in small; and if, in despite of what was possible, we lived at peace with another, surely this was proof that certain laws unknown to us held sway, or else that we had been following the promptings of our hearts all this time, and our hearts had not betrayed us.
With the buck before me suspended in immobility, there seems to be time for all things, time even to turn my gaze inward and see what it is that has robbed the hunt of its savour: the sense that this has become no longer a morning's hunting but an occasion on which either the proud ram bleeds to death on the ice or the old hunter misses his aim; that for the duration of this frozen moment the stars are locked in a configuration in which events are not themselves but stand for other things.
That was our first time together. Interesting, an interesting experience, but not earth-shaking. But then, I never expected it to be earth-shaking, not with him. What I was determined to avoid was emotional entanglement. A passing fling was one thing, an affair of the heart quite another. Of myself I was fairly sure. I was not about to lose my heart to a man about whom I knew next to nothing.