And there was another reason for mistrust. If a memory wasn’t a thing but a memory of a memory of a memory, mirrors set in parallel, then what the brain told you now about what it claimed had happened then would be coloured by what had happened in between. It was like a country remembering its history; the past was never just the past, it was what made the present able to live with itself. The same went for individuals, though the process obviously wasn’t straightforward. – that’s how history became a tool, both in global and our personal view, it cannot possibly be objective and is always filtered through things that happened ‘in between’
And there was a logical consequence of this, which became part of Martha’s creed: after the age of twenty-five, you were not allowed to blame anything on your parents. Of course, it didn’t apply if your parents had done something terrible – had raped and murdered you and stolen all your money and sold you into prostitution – but in the average course of an average life, if you were averagely competent and averagely intelligent, and more so if you were more so, then you were not allowed to blame your parents. Of course you did, there were times when it was just too tempting.
‘Tell me, do you agree that women are more cynical than men?’
Martha thought for a few seconds. ‘Well, women have traditionally accommodated themselves to men’s needs. Men;s needs being,of course, double. You put us on a pedestal in order to look up our skirts. When you wanted models of purity and spiritual value, something to idealize while you were away tiling the soil or killing the enemy, we accommodated ourselves. If you now ant us to be cynical and disillusioned I dare say we can accommodate ourselves to that as well. Though of course we may not mean it, any more than we meant it before. We might just be being cynical about being cynical.’ – lovely! Cynical about being cynical, yum. And so bitter at that.
‘[…]Once there was only the world, directly lived. Now there is the representation – let me fracture that word, the re-presentation – of the world. It is not a substitute for that plain and primitive world, but an enhancement and enrichment, an ironisation and summation of hat world. This is where we live today. […]’ – the book discussed the issue of original and a copy pretty deeply, but I think this sums up well one side of the argument, the one that is rarely allowed into public debate, that takes the superiority of the original for granted, as if it was a moral value.
It seemed to Dr Max positively unpatriotic to know so little about the origins and forging of your nation. And yet, therein lay the immediate paradox: that patriotism’s most eager bedfellow was ignorance, not knowledge. – how true, how sad, how very very current
He was particularly pleased to have introduced the idea of crisis. Of course there wasn’t one, at least not for the moment. But no legislator, from tinpot Island councillor to President of the Unites States, could be seen denying that there was a crisis if someone said there was one. It looked like idleness or incompetence. So now, officially, there was a crisis. – it’s been a while since I’ve seen a politician denying a crisis, but then I managed to completely cut off my contact with anything political.
– So, Martha, what are you after? You can tell me.
– What am I after? I don’t know. Perhaps a recognition that life, despite everything, has a capacity for seriousness. Which has eluded me. As it eludes most people, probably. But still.
– Go on.
– Well, I suppose life must be more serious if it has a structure, if there’s something larger out there than yourself.
– Nice and diplomatic, Martha. Banal, too. Triumphantly meaningless. Try again.
– All right. If life is a triviality, then despair is the only option.
– Better, Martha. Much better. Unless what you’re meaning is that you’ve decided to seek God as a way of avoiding antidepressants.
Could you reinvent innocence? Or was it always constructed, grafted on the old disbelief? Were the children’s faces proof of this renewable innocence – or was that just sentimentality?
My review of England, England
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska @ vkphotospace
4 thoughts on “England, England – Julian Barnes – Quotes”
He’s one of my favourite authors!
I’ve never read him before but these selections are making me rethink that! Very smart observations.
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Yes, for he’s one of those authors that speak more to my intellect than my emotions. I only read 3 of his books so far and liked all of them. Give it a shot when you have a chance 🙂
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