Literary Quotations
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Quotes from:

ELIZABETH COSTELLO

by: J. M. Coetzee


There is first of all the problem of the opening, namely, how to get us from where we are, which is, as yet, nowhere, to the far bank. It is a simple bridging problem, a problem of knocking together a bridge. People solve such problems every day. They solve them, and having solved them push on.

--Lesson 1

Without infinity we would have no mathematics.

--Lesson 1

If I, this mortal shell, am going to die, let me at least live on through my creations.

--Lesson 1

The future does not much interest me. What is the future, after all, but a structure of hopes and expectations? It's residence is in the mind; it has no reality.

--Lesson 2

What is miraculous about the past is that we have succeeded--God knows how--in making thousands and millions of individual human beings, lock well enought into one another to give us what looks like a common past, a shared story.

--Lesson 2

Belief may be no more, in the end, than a source of energy, like a battery which one clips into an idea to make it run.

--Lesson 2

Reason is simply a vast tautology.

--Lesson 3

Perhaps we invented the gods so that we could put the blame on them. They gave us permission to eat flesh. They gave us permission to play with unclean things. It's not our fault, it's theirs. We're just their children.

--Lesson 3

Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

--Lesson 3

When opponents are at loggerheads, we say: "Let them reason together, and by reasoning clarify what their differences are, and thus inch closer. They may seem to share nothing else, but at least they share reason.

--Lesson 4

How else are we to live but by dreams?

--Lesson 5

There is nothing more humanly beautiful than a woman's breasts. Nothing more humanly beautiful, nothing more humanly mysterious than why men should want to caress, over and over again, with paintbrush or chisel or hand, these oddly curved fatty sacs, and nothing more humanly endearing than our complicity (I mean the complicity of women) in their obsession.

--Lesson 5

The devil is everywhere under the skin of things, searching for a way into the light.

--Lesson 6

When we are stirred to lament the loss of the gods, it is more than likely the gods who are doing the stirring.

--Lesson 7

The gods, the immortals, were the inventors of death and corruption; yet with one or two notable exceptions they have lacked the courage to try their invention out on themselves.

--Lesson 7

Unbelief is a belief.

--Lesson 8