I could not put this book down. Completely captivating. The story veers from situations which invoke empathy, cringing, dread, disgust and serenity on the part of the reader, sometimes in the space of a few pages, and leaves you questioning yourself. Immensely readable.

Your reading activity
Dates 17 June 2013 – 21 June 2013
Time spent reading 7 hours, 35 minutes
Highlights 24
Comments 2
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I realise that if you were to begin thinking in detail of all the misery present in the world at one and the same time, you would never be able to sleep, and all laughter would die in your throat. But theoretical, imagined suffering is not what distresses a man and destroys his peace of mind. Only what you have seen with pitying eyes can really shake you.

Even the dullest of men would not find it hard to talk agreeably with a cognac inside him, warming him very pleasantly, with the smoke of a fine fat cigar delicately tickling his nostrils, with two pretty, lively girls beside him, and after such a succulent dinner.

Once you have gained some understanding of human nature, further understanding of it seems to grow mysteriously, and when you are able to feel genuine sympathy for a single form of earthly suffering, the magic of that lesson enables you to understand all others, however strange and apparently absurd they may be.

It is wonderful to be close to the sick when they are asleep, when all anxieties lie at rest inside them, when they have forgotten their frailty so entirely that a smile sometimes settles on their half-open lips like a butterfly settling on a leaf—a strange smile that does not really seem to be their own, and will be banished as soon as they wake up.

Annoyance makes one sharp-sighted as well as bad-tempered

She is rather too pale and too unsure of herself, or she could almost be described as pretty. That long, delicate face with its downcast eyelids is like a landscape seen in rain.

Believe me when I say, as an older man, that there is nothing to feel ashamed of in being deceived from time to time in your life. Indeed, it’s a mercy not to have developed the sharp, diagnostic eye that suspects ulterior motives, and to begin by approaching everyone and everything with goodwill.

A strong sense of physical wellbeing, like every intoxicant, has something about it that inhibits thought; intense enjoyment of the present moment makes you forget the past.

Pity, like morphine, does the sick good only at first. It is a means of helping them to feel better, but if you don’t get the dose right and know where to stop it becomes a murderous poison.

But there are two kinds of pity. One, the weak-minded, sentimental sort is really just the heart’s impatience to rid itself as quickly as possible of the painful experience of being moved by another person’s suffering. It is a not a case of real sympathy, of feeling with the sufferer, but a way of defending yourself against the sufferer’s pain. The other kind, the only one that counts, is unsentimental but creative. It knows its own mind, and is determined to stand by the sufferer, patiently suffering too to the last of its strength and even beyond. Only when you go all the way to the end, the bitter end, only when you have that patience, can you really help people. Only if you are ready to sacrifice yourself, only then!

Once you have one of those disorders so cruelly called incurable, you clutch at any straw for hope, see it as a solid plank and then make it a whole house. But such castles in the air are very bad for the sick, and it is my duty as a doctor to demolish them as quickly as I can before high hopes take up residence there.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Love this.

A young, inexperienced man facing real life nearly always forms his ideas of the world on the model of what he has heard and read, and inevitably dreams of his own experience in terms of other people’s images and examples. And in the books and plays I knew, or at the cinema (where everything is two-dimensional and simplified), it was exclusively young, attractive people who desired each other, and so I had supposed—hence also my general timidity with women—that you must be particularly good-looking and specially favoured by Fate to arouse a woman’s interest.

So far, as a young and inexperienced man, I had always thought that the longings of unrequited love were the worst possible affliction of the heart. On that day, however, I began to divine that there is another and perhaps much worse torment than feeling love and desire, and that is to be loved against your will, when you cannot defend yourself against the passion thrust upon you.

A man turning down a woman’s desire for him is wounding all that is finest in her.

I know now that to be loved against his will is the most senseless yet inescapable misfortune that a man can suffer, the worst of all tortures. However innocent he is, it makes him feel guilty.

every form love takes, even the most ridiculous and absurd, involves the life of another human being, and even indifference leaves you running up a debt to love.

Even in dreams the scrabbling rats of my dark thoughts are on the move, gnawing at the black dish of sleep, always the same thoughts, always the same, and when I wake up in the morning I feel as if vampires had gutted me and sucked my blood dry.

Only an idiot is pleased to think of himself as a ladykiller, only a fool is puffed up with pride at such an idea. A decent man is more likely to feel dismayed when he discovers that a woman has lost her heart to him, and he can’t return her feelings.

Someone once wounded by Fate remains vulnerable for ever.

There is silence in the air above the table between us in the small room. Gradually that silence spreads, rising to the ceiling like a black gas, filling the whole room from above, from below, a void pressing in on us from all sides, and the old man’s difficult breathing tells me how the silence is choking him.

Those three minutes of cowardice had destroyed my life; there was nothing for me now but my revolver.

Andrew Doran Andrew Doran

Can't help thinking of the fate of the author as I read this.

I suppose it’s the latest fashion for young gentlemen to wear their coats half-unbuttoned, is it? You think you can come in after midnight like a sow dragging her teats along the ground?

A man of limited vision is hard to tolerate when he has power at his disposal

Why love the healthy, confident, proud and happy? They don’t need it. They take love as their rightful due, as the duty owed to them, they accept it indifferently and arrogantly. Other people’s devotion is just another gift to them, a clasp to wear in the hair, a bangle for the wrist, not the whole meaning and happiness of their lives. Love can truly help only those not favoured by fate, the distressed and disadvantaged, those who are less than confident and not beautiful, the meek-minded. When love is given to them it makes up for what life has taken away. They alone know how to love and be loved in the right way, humbly and with gratitude.