In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favorite passages from the book

  • When you live in the city, you learn to take nothing for granted. Close your eyes for a moment, turn around to look at something else, and the thing that was before you is suddenly gone. Nothing lasts, you see, not even the thoughts inside you. And you mustn’t waste your time looking for them. Once a thing is gone, that is the end of it.
  • I put one foot in front of the other, and then the other foot in front of the first, and then hope I can do it again. Nothing more than that.
  • By wanting less, you are content with less, and the less you need, the better off you are. That is what the city does to you. It turns your thoughts inside out. It makes you want to live, and at the same time it tries to take your life away from you. There is no escape from this. Either you do or you don’t. And if you do, you can’t be sure of doing it the next time. And if you don’t, you never will again.
  • Bit by bit, the city robs you of certainty.
  • No matter how many times, it must always be the first time.
  • it’s just that where the past is concerned, the truth tends to get obscured rather quickly.
  • There are two principal factions in this sect—the Dogs and the Snakes. The first contend that crawling on hands and knees shows adequate contrition, whereas the second hold that nothing short of moving on one’s belly is good enough.
  • And yet, very strangely, at the limit of all this chaos, everything begins to fuse again.
  • Without knowledge, one can neither hope nor despair.
  • One never knows what loyalties will surface at the critical moment, what conflicts can be churned up when you least expect them.
  • That is how it works in the city. Every time you think you know the answer to a question, you discover that the question makes no sense.
  • A thing vanishes, and if you wait too long before thinking about it, no amount of struggle can ever wrench it back. Memory is not an act of will, after all. It is something that happens in spite of oneself, and when too much is changing all the time, the brain is bound to falter, things are bound to slip through
  • If I see them now, it is only in short, random clusters, isolated images removed from any context, bursts of light and shadow.
  • What is better—to help large numbers of people a little bit or small numbers of people a lot?
  • We became dear friends, and I owe Boris a debt for his compassion, for the devious and persistent attack he launched on the strongholds of my sadness.

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