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WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS

by: J. M. Coetzee


Pain is truth; all else is subject to doubt.

--Chapter I

Sleep is no longer a healing bath, a recuperation of vital forces, but an oblivion, a nightly brush with annihilation.

--Chapter I

I know somewhat too much; and from this knowledge, once one has been infected, there seems to be no recovering.

--Chapter I

Nothing is worse than what we can imagine.

--Chapter II

The older a man the more grotesque people find his couplings, like the spasms of a dying animal.

--Chapter II

What bird has the heart to sing in a thicket of thorns?

--Chapter II

A body ... can entertain notions of justice only as long as it is whole and well ... [it] very soon forgets them when its head its gripped and a pipe is pushed down its gullet and pints of salt water are poured into it till it coughs and retches and flails and voids itself.

--Chapter IV

The barbarians come out at night.

--Chapter V

We all know, what old men seek is to recover their youth in the arms of young women.

--Chapter V

One thought only preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster: the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation.

--Chapter V

All creatures come into the world bringing with them the memory of justice.

--Chapter V

This is not the scene I dreamed of. Like much else nowadays I leave it feeling stupid, like a man who lost his way long ago but presses on along a road that may lead nowhere.

--Chapter VI

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