A selection of my favourite passages from the book
• ‘We are all arbitrary children of calamity,’ he said in his academic voice. ‘We have to take the leavings.’
• chaos is the opposite pole of boredom,
• When they finally destroy us, if they finally destroy us, they’ll destroy their own means of living so I do not think they will destroy us. I think an equilibrium will be maintained. But the Soldiers would like to destroy them, for Soldiers need to be victorious, and if the Barbarians are destroyed, who will we then be able to blame for the bad things?’
• there was nothing but custom to keep her in the village and nothing she wanted to take away with her; not a single one of all those things she had once possessively marked with her name now seemed to belong to her. She had wanted to rescue him but found she was accepting his offer to rescue her.
• She loved nobody in this place but beyond it lay the end of all known things and certain desolation.
• after the sun penetrated the branches, the trees acquired flesh from the darkness and, as the sky grew light, she saw nothing that was not green or else covered with flowers. Plants she could not name thrust luscious spires towards her hands; great chestnuts fantastically turreted with greenish bloom arched above her head; the curded white blossom of hawthorn closed every surrounding perspective and a running tangle of little roses went in and out, this way and that way, through the leafy undergrowth.
• Tangled in briars, she called out to the young man but he did not hear her for the forest seemed to merge into an element heavier than air, which drowned her voice.
• Her head ached with the viridian dazzle of the sunlit forest.
• the Barbarians did not segment their existence into hours nor even morning, afternoon and evening but left it raw in original shapes of light and darkness so the day was a featureless block of action and night of oblivion.
• perhaps chaos is even more boring than order.
• In daylight or firelight, she saw him in two dimensions, flat and effectless.
• Creation from the void is more difficult than it would seem.
• ‘The more choices one has, the larger the world grows.’
• They all sat so perfectly without movement it was as if the night supported itself upon the pillars of their stillness and nobody dared move.
• When she glanced at him, he looked as insubstantial as if cut from paper.
• ‘If the lion could speak, we would not understand it,’ said Donally.
• I could make you so terrifying the bends of the road would straighten out with fright as you rode down. I’ll make you a politician and you could become the King of all the Yahoos and all the Professors, too; they need a myth as passionately as anyone else, they need a hero.
• Since he reconstructed the world solely in terms of imagery, she found it hard to understand him.