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Penelope Lively

  • Chronology irritates me. There is no chronology inside my head. I am composed of a myriad of Claudias who spin and mix and part like sparks of sunlight on water.

  • ... the days of our lives vanish utterly, more insubstantial than if they had been invented. Fiction can seem more enduring than reality.

  • History unravels; circumstances, following their natural inclination, prefer to remain ravelled.

  • Mythology is much better stuff than history. It has form; logic; a message.

  • Language tethers us to the world; without it we spin like atoms.

  • Wars are fought by children. Conceived by their mad demonic elders, and fought by boys.

  • I can remember the lush spring excitement of language in childhood. Sitting in church, rolling it around my mouth like marbles — tabernacle and pharisee and parable, trespasses and Babylon and covenant.

  • All history, of course, is the history of wars ...

  • Grief-stricken. Stricken is right; it is as though you had been felled. Knocked to the ground; pitched out of life and into something else.

  • We all act as hinges — fortuitous links between other people.

  • ... unless I am a part of everything I am nothing.

  • This city is entirely in the mind. It is a construct of the memory and of the intellect.

  • The city feeds his mind, but in so doing he is manipulated by it, its sights and sounds condition his responses, he is its product and its creature. Neither can do without the other.

  • I believe that the experience of childhood is irretrievable. All that remains, for any of us, is a headful of brilliant frozen moments, already dangerously distorted by the wisdoms of maturity.

  • There's a fearful term that's in fashion at the moment — closure. People apparently believe it is desirable and attainable.

  • But who knows their own child? You know bits — certain predictable reactions, a handful of familiar qualities. The rest is impenetrable. And quite right too. You give birth to them. You do not design them.

  • Old age worry is its own climate, she reflects. Up against the wire, as you are, the proverbial bus is less of a concern: it is heading for you anyway.

  • If people don't read, that's their choice; a lifelong book habit may itself be some sort of affliction.

  • An ending is an artificial device; we like endings, they are satisfying, convenient, and a point has been made. But time does does not end, and stories march in step with time. Equally, chaos theory does not assume an ending; the ripple effect goes on, and on.

  • The past is our ultimate privacy; we pile it up, year by year, decade by decade, it stows itself away, with its perverse random recall system.

Penelope Lively, English writer


Full name: Dame Penelope Margaret Lively, DBE, FRSL.