The Dinner by Herman Koch

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favorite passages from the book

    • If I had to give a definition of happiness, it would be this: happiness needs nothing but itself; it doesn’t have to be validated.
    • Unhappiness loves company. Unhappiness can’t stand silence—especially not the uneasy silence that settles in when it is all alone.
    • This was happening to me more often lately: suddenly, pieces of the puzzle were gone—bites out of time, empty moments during which my thoughts must have been elsewhere.
    • I remember how tiring it could be always to be standing next to someone who towered head and shoulders above you, as though you were literally standing in his shadow, and as though that shadow kept you from getting enough sunlight.
    • No, it was a very subtle something in her eyes, a shift invisible to the uninitiated, something between mockery and sudden earnest. “Don’t,” the look said.
    • A waitress topped up Serge’s glass, then mine; Babette’s and Claire’s were still half full.
    • The injustice is found more in the fact that the assholes are also put on the list of innocent victims. That their names are also chiseled into the war memorials.”
    • But, except for the mass destruction of human lives, the First World War was mostly boring. It had no zing, after a manner of speaking.
    • Of course it’s terrible—we’ve all been taught to say that we think it’s terrible. But a world without disasters and violence—be it the violence of nature or that of muscle and blood—would be the truly unbearable thing.
    • Personality change, that was my biggest fear, that my personality would be affected, that I would become, though more bearable to those around me, lost to myself.
    • They said it slightly sotto voce, but you could hear the thirst for sensation right through it: when people get a chance to come close to death without having it touch them personally, they never miss the opportunity.
    • “Is it life threatening?” they asked. They said it slightly sotto voce, but you could hear the thirst for sensation right through it: when people get a chance to come close to death without having it touch them personally, they never miss the opportunity.
    • It’s my experience that when people go on repeating your first name, they want something from you, and it’s usually not something you want to give.
    • It was hereditary. Yes, that was the only word for it. If heredity existed, if anything was hereditary, then it had to be our shared aversion to sweet desserts.
    • The dilemma I was faced with was one every parent faces sooner or later: you want to defend your child, of course; you stand up for your child, but you mustn’t do it all too vehemently, and above all not too eloquently—you mustn’t drive anyone into a corner.
    • When faced with lower intelligences, the most effective strategy in my opinion is to tell a barefaced lie: with a lie, you give the pinheads a chance to retreat without losing face.
    • It’s instinct: That which falls is weak. That which lies on the ground is prey.
    • A process of habituation seemed to be taking place here as well; if you stayed in one place long enough, you became a face like all the rest.

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