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Some of what we read in classical literature is not relative to our condition, but then many women novelists and poets have turned it upside down and told the stories from the other point of view.

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I confidently predict the collapse of capitalism and the beginning of history. Something will go wrong in the machinery that converts money into money, the banking system will collapse totally, and we will be left having to barter to stay alive. Those who can dig in their garden will have a better chance than the rest. I’ll be all right; I’ve got a few veg.

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There are some writers who wrote too much. There are others who wrote enough. There are yet others who wrote nothing like enough to satisfy their admirers, and Jane Austen is certainly one of these.

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I used to be a reasonably careless and adventurous person before I had children; now I am morbidly obsessed by seat-belts and constantly afraid that low-flying aircraft will drop on my children’s school.

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How extraordinary people are, that they get themselves into such situations where they go on doing what they dislike doing, and have no need or obligation to do, simply because it seems to be expected.

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Lord knows what incommunicable small terrors infants go through, unknown to all. We disregard them, we say they forget, because they have not the words to make us remember. … By the time they learn to speak they have forgotten the details of their complaints, and so we never know. They forget so quickly, we say, because we cannot contemplate the fact that they never forget.

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There are some people who cannot get onto a train without imagining that they are about to voyage into the significant unknown; as though the notion of movement were inseparably connected with the notion of discovery, as though each displacement of the body were a displacement of the soul.

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Auntie Phyl’s last months in the care home were extra pieces. Age is unnecessary. Some of us, like my mother, are fortunate enough to die swiftly and suddenly, in full possession of our faculties and our fate, but more and more of us will be condemned to linger, at the mercy of anxious or indifferent relatives, careless strangers, unwanted medical interventions, increasing debility, incontinence, memory loss. We live too long, but, like the sibyl hanging in her basket in the cave at Cumae, we find it hard to die.

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Because if one has an image, however dim and romantic, of a journey’s end, one may, in the end, surely reach it, after no matter how many detours and deceptions and abandonings of hope. And hope could never have been entirely abandoned, even in the worst days.

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What really annoys me are the ones who write to say, I am doing your book for my final examinations and could you please tell me what the meaning of it is. I find it just so staggering–that you’re supposed to explain the meaning of your book to some total stranger! If I knew what the meanings of my books were, I wouldn’t have bothered to write them.