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Quote of the Day

Image result for lawrence durrell, justine

In the wake of Nobelgate, Anna North at The New York Times printed a well-crafted response to the decision to give this year’s Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan. Although argued from a slightly different point of view than my own post yesterday, it essentially resonates with the same message: The Swedish Academy got it wrong. Badly.

But instead of focusing on the negative, I thought I’d offer some examples of poetic literary quotes over the few next few days to remind us all of the power and inspiration behind the written word.

This one comes from the hugely talented British expat writer Lawrence Durrell (1912-90), whose most famous tetralogy of works, The Alexandria Quartet, includes some of the most beautiful writing I’ve read. Here’s a taste of TAQ #1, Justine:

“[F]alling in love…is a simultaneous firing of two spirits engaged in the autonomous act of growing up. And the sensation is of something having noiselessly exploded inside each of them. Around this event, dazed and preoccupied, the lover moves examining his or her own experience; her gratitude alone, stretching away towards a mistaken donor, creates the illusion that she communicates with her fellow, but this is false. The loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same moment, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors…from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back to loneliness.” 

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On Love & Quotes

I like quotes. And, really, who doesn’t ? Bound by a cute pair of rabbit ears, a great quote can serve as a life mantra, a conversation starter, an impetus to change your life, a reason to learn more about a subject…the list is endless!

My friend and old ex-curler buddy, Stephen B., just tagged me in a Facebook Memory (didn’t even know they existed before this) and reminded me of a quote from Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, a novel we read in our book club aeons ago. Wilder was in his own league when it came to English prose. I mean, here was a guy who really knew how to string together words in a way that hits you hard, not like a nudge on the shoulder, but more a hammer to the cerebral cortex that induces a shot of heaven-borne adrenalin to your organ of fire.

Check out this doozy from The Bridge of San Luis Rey:

Soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

(ed. note: If you like Wilder, especially The Bridge of San Luis Rey, I strongly encourage you to read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Aside from The Bridge of San Luis Rey being one of Mitchell’s favourite books, he infused a lot from Wilder’s novel in his own epic, ranging from the character of Luisa Rey to the almost frequent mention of bridges at key moments in the story. )

While reading that Wilder quote again, I find it hauntingly similar to a passage I read years ago that was written by yet another literary giant more than 60 years before Wilder penned his ethereal prose on love. To quote Prince Andrei from War and Peace:

Love hinders death. Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.

Now that I’m on the subject, though, I can’t but recall two of my all-time-forever-like-totally-can’t-forget-about-them quotes on this subject.

First, I present Lawrence Durrell from the first book in the Alexandria Quartet novels, Justine:

The loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same moment of time, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors. All this may precede the first look, kiss, or touch; precede ambition, pride, or envy; precede the first declarations which mark the turning point—for from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back to loneliness.

And I end with the man himself, Michael Ondaatje, and his swan song from The English Patient:

We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.

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