Edna O'brien Quotes

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In our deepest moments we say the most inadequate things.
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Edna O'Brien (A Fanatic Heart: Selected Stories)
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Darkness is drawn to light, but light does not know it; light must absorb the darkness and therefore meet its own extinguishment.
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Edna O'Brien (In the Forest)
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When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.
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Edna O'Brien
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We all leave one another. We die, we change - it's mostly change - we outgrow our best friends; but even if I do leave you, I will have passed on to you something of myself; you will be a different person because of knowing me; it's inescapable...
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Edna O'Brien (Girl with Green Eyes (The Country Girls Trilogy, #2))
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She said the reason that love is so painful is that it always amounts to two people wanting more than two people can give.
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Edna O'Brien (Saints and Sinners: Stories)
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Writers are always anxious, always on the run--from the telephone, from responsibilities, from the distractions of the world.
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Edna O'Brien
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...people liking you or not liking you is an accident and is to do with them and not you. That goes for love too, only more so.
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Edna O'Brien (Girls in Their Married Bliss (The Country Girls Trilogy, #3))
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That is the mystery about writing: it comes out of afflictions, out of the gouged times, when the heart is cut open.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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The vote means nothing to women. We should be armed.
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Edna O'Brien
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Books everywhere. On the shelves and on the small space above the rows of books and all along the floor and under chairs, books that I have read, books that I have not read.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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Love . . . is like nature, but in reverse; first it fruits, then it flowers, then it seems to wither, then it goes deep, deep down into its burrow, where no one sees it, where it is lost from sight, and ultimately people die with that secret buried inside their souls.
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Edna O'Brien (Lantern slides: Short stories)
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I was lonelier than I should be, for a woman in love, or half in love.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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Sometimes one word can recall a whole span of life.
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Edna O'Brien (The Lonely Girl)
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Life was a bitch. Love also was a bitch.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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There was I, devouring books and yet allowing a man who had never read a book to walk me home for a bit of harmless fumbling on the front steps.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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Money talks, but tell me why all it says is just Goodbye.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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It was the first time that I came face to face with madness and feared it and was fascinated by it.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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Oh, love, what an unreasoning creature it grew to be.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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After that dark woman you search for someone who will fit into the irregular corners of your heart.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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I knew I had done something awful. I had killed love, before I even knew the enormity of what love meant.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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The words ran away with me.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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ุงู„ุฌุณุฏ ูŠุญูˆูŠ ุงู„ูƒุซูŠุฑ ู…ู† ู‚ุตุต ุงู„ุญูŠุงุฉ ุชู…ุงู…ุง ู…ุซู„ ุงู„ู…ุฎ.
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Edna O'Brien
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Brush those tears from your eyes And try and realize That from now on I'll always be true. I went away But I didn't mean to stay And I will regret it until my dying day.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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I crossed the room, and what you did was to feel my hair over and over again and in different ways, touch it, with the palm of your hand... felt it, strands of hair, with your fingers, touched it as if it were cloth, the way a child touches its favorite surfaces.
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Edna O'Brien
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It is impossible to capture the essence of love in writing, only its symptoms remain, the erotic absorption, the huge disparity between the times together and the times apart, the sense of being excluded.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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You would not believe how many words there are for 'home' and what savage music there can be wrung from it.
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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Life, after all, was a secret with the self. The more one gave out, the less there remained for the center--that center which she coveted for herself and recognized instantly in others. Fruits had it, the very heart of, say, a cherry, where the true worth and flavor lay. Some of course were flawed or hollow in there. Many, in fact.
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Edna O'Brien (The Country Girls Trilogy 'the Country Girls', ' the Lonely Girl', 'Girls in Their Married Bliss)
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Oh dark woman With a shawl and ribs I could have served him better With my shanties. But men do love the shimmer And so his ghost Is hacked in half between us The dark me and the dark you.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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In our deepest moments we say the most inadequate things
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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You're a right-looking eejit
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Edna O'Brien (The Country Girls (The Country Girls Trilogy, #1))
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Cities, in many ways, are the best repositories for a love affair. You are in a forest or a cornfield, you are walking by the seashore, footprint after footprint of trodden sand, and somehow the kiss or the spoken covenant gets lost in the vastness and indifference of nature. In a city there are places to remind us of what has been.
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Edna O'Brien (Saints and Sinners: Stories)
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The other me, who did not mean to drown herself, went under the sea and remained there for a long time. Eventually she surfaced near Japan and people gave her gifts but she had been so long under the sea she did not recognize what they were. She is a sly one. Mostly at night we commune. Night. Harbinger of dream and nightmare and bearer of omens which defy the music of words. In the morning the fear of her going is very real and very alarming. It can make one tremble. Not that she cares. She is the muse. I am the messenger.
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Edna O'Brien
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Whenever I look at Edna Oโ€™Brien,โ€ continued Mr.ย Denby-Denby, โ€œI get the impression that she wants to put every man she meets across her knee and give them a good spanking until they show her the proper respect. Oh, to be the bare bottom beneath that alabaster palm!
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John Boyne (The Heart's Invisible Furies)
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Ireland is still what novelist Edna O'Brien calls a "pagan place." But that paganism does not conflict with a devout Catholicism that embraces and absorbs it, in a way that can seem mysterious, even heretical, elsewhere. In Ireland, Christianity arrived without lions and gladiators, survived without autos-da-fe and Inquisitions. The old ways were seamlessly bonded to the new, so that ancient rituals continued, ancient divinities became saints, ancient holy sites were maintained just as they had been for generations and generations.
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Patricia Monaghan (The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit)
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Her little treasures. Each item reminding her of someone or of something.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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If we are taken all together, we might muster some courage, but from the previous evidence it is likely that we will be taken separately.
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Edna O'Brien
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It was all terrible and tiring and meaningless.
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Edna O'Brien (The Love Object)
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Yes, the living, the mangled, the scarified, with the crazed responsibility of remembering everything, everything.
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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We don't know others. They are an enigma. We can't know them, especially those we are most intimate with, because habit blurs us and hope blinds us to the truth.
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Edna O'Brien
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I had not the heart to tell her that great love stories told of the pain and separateness between men and women.
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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I hear stories. It could be myself telling them to myself or it could be these murmurs that come out of the earth. The earth so old and haunted, so hungry and replete. It talks. Things past and things yet to be.
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Edna O'Brien (House of Splendid Isolation)
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I had not realized how far gone she was and how much she dreaded the homecoming, the ghost. We don't know others. They are an enigma. We can't know them, especially those we are most intimate with, because habit blurs us and hope blinds us to the truth.
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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Opposite to where she sat the water was a boggy brown, but not too far along it was a dark violet colour, always changing, the way the sweep of the current changed, but as she saw it, her own life did not change at all - the same routine, the same longing and the same loneliness.
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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I cannot be certain what I would have said. I knew that there was something sad and faintly distasteful about love's ending, particularly love that has never been fully realised. I might have hinted at that, but I doubt it. In our deepest moments we say the most inadequate things." short story "Sister Imelda
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Edna O'Brien (Returning: Tales)
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a stony road, hard on the feet. I would beg for us to sit down but you discouraged it, knowing that sitting was fatal, because of the willpower required to get up again.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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never forget this moment, the hum of the bee, the saffron threads of the flower, the drawn blinds, natureโ€™s assiduousness and human cruelty.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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She was happy I was home, I would come often, I would be company,
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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Horses are the ruination of everyone, your father has a craze for them but then we all do crazy things.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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I barely eat cake now. The one Iโ€™m sending you, make a hole on the top with a knitting needle and pour a glass of whiskey into it to keep it moist.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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Gabriel, the man she might have tied the knot with except that it was not meant to be. Putting memories to sleep, like putting an animal down.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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He never studied, not a paper, not a textbookย .ย .ย .ย the books he reads are the people that come to him,
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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In the bodily garden the apple lurks.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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wherever there were horses or ponies the mushrooms always sprang up.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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so many that had died on the scaffold and many more to die including, though she did not know it then, her own son.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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The night before I left home, there was the wake in our kitchen as was the custom for anyone going so far away. The kitchen was full of people, two men left their flash lamps lit
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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On the island of tears, we were subjected to every kind of humiliation,
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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moonlight in Mayoโ€ time.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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That was the thing about America, people always moving on, so that a girl had to snap up a beau as fast as she could.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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If the Holy Communion touched my teeth, I thought that was a mortal sin
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Edna O'Brien (Saints and Sinners: Stories)
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But we want young men. Romance. Love and things," I said, despondently.
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Edna O'Brien (The Country Girls (The Country Girls Trilogy, #1))
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But we want young men. Romance. Love and things,' I said, despondently.
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Edna O'Brien (The Country Girls (The Country Girls Trilogy, #1))
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The wall was a symbol of protests, inch upon inch covered with graffiti, in red, blue, yellow, purple, indigo, magenta, terracotta, a tableau of screaming indignations.
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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We don't know others. They are an enigma. We can't know them, especially those we are most intimate with, because habit blurs us and hope blinds us with truth.
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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I tend not to look at the prison wall of life, but to look up at the sky, as it is more beautiful and more spacious. Try
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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I am far from those I am with, and far from those I have left.
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Edna O'Brien
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Their eyes meet and part, each staring into the forlorn space, a shaft of disappointment, he because he is unable to help her and she because she is thrown back into her own quagmire of uncertainty.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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He probably knew that any man she took up with now would only pay in pain for what had happened between her and Eugene; the brutal logic of wronged lovers taking their revenge on innocents and outsiders.
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Edna O'Brien (The Country Girls Trilogy & Epilogue [The Country Girls, The Lonely Girl, Girls in their married bliss].)
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Nothing but rules. Rule the first: no callers at the front door. Rule the second: no callers at the back door. Rule the third: no going out after dark. The six dusters had to be washed each evening and accounted for.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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she sees her life pass before her in rapid succession, like clouds, different shapes and different colors, merging, passing into one another, the story of her life being pulled out of her, like the pages pulled from a book.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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We all leave one another. We die, we change - it's mostly change - we outgrow our best friends; but even if I do leave you, I will have passed on to you something of myself; you will be a different person because of knowing me; it's inescapable...
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Edna O'Brien (The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue)
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Although one might seem relatively gregarious, the real self is at the desk,โ€ she said. โ€œIt is a trial for relationships, for friendships. Every writer dreads losing the connection to the work, the momentum, and to keep it, you canโ€™t truly be sociable.
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Edna O'Brien
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She was an auxiliary nurse but training to be a true nurse because that was her calling, to serve mankind. She was a Martha. There were Marys and Marthas, but Marys got all the limelight because of being Christโ€™s handmaiden, but Marthas were far more sincere.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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In the first dusk he walks back. Flowers and fallen confetti, from a wedding two days earlier, lie trodden on the wet grass and he knows in his heart that he is sure who he man was, but that nobody in the whole world, not even Tommy, not even Ivan, would believe him.
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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She had always thought that people who had once loved one another kept the faintest trace of it in their being, but not him. He was free of her. Marked of course, but free in a way that she was not. She was still joined by fear, by sexual necessity, by what she knew as love.
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Edna O'Brien (The Country Girls (The Country Girls Trilogy, #1))
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My friends I tell you this, we are a jolly group but put us in uniform and all that change. In war I donโ€™t know who my brother. In war I donโ€™t know who my friend. War make everybody savage. Who can say what lies inside the heart of each one of us when everything is taken away.
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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like what Martin Amis said: deploring egotism in novelists is like deploring violence in boxers. There was a time when everyone understood this. And there was a time when young writers believed that writing was a vocationโ€”like being a nun or a priest, as Edna Oโ€™Brien said. Remember?โ€ โ€œYes, as I also remember Elizabeth Bishop saying thereโ€™s nothing more embarrassing than being a poet. The problem of self-loathing isnโ€™t new. Whatโ€™s new is the idea that itโ€™s the people with the history of greatest injustice who have the greatest right to be heard, and that the time has come for the arts not just to make room for them but to be dominated by them.โ€ โ€œItโ€™s kind of a double bind, though, isnโ€™t it. The privileged shouldnโ€™t write about themselves, because that furthers the agenda of the imperialist white patriarchy. But they also shouldnโ€™t write about other groups, because that would be cultural appropriation.
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Sigrid Nunez (The Friend)
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But any book that is any good must be, to some extent, autobiographical, because one cannot and should not fabricate emotions; and although style and narrative are crucial, the bulwark, emotion, is what finally matters. With luck, talent, and studiousness, one manages to make a little pearl, or egg, or something . . .
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Edna O'Brien
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FOR THREE NIGHTS in a row, Dilly has dreamed of Gabriel, a look of yearning on his face, the clothes hanging off him, making no attempt to come to her and yet making his presence felt, standing on an empty road, like he was waiting. Three nights in a row. โ€œIt must mean that heโ€™s trying to reach you,โ€ Sister says. โ€œIt doesnโ€™t,โ€ Dilly answers
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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She is also my only friendโ€”apart from Emily Pagett, who reminds me of Baba in The Country Girls (Edna Oโ€™Brien, Hutchinson, 1962), in that she often spreads lies about meโ€”but which I tolerate, because she also tells me gossip about other people, which is fascinating. Even if itโ€™s also not true. I recognize that ultimately you have make your own amusement.
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Caitlin Moran (How to Build a Girl)
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I would not leave a mother alone in her plight. They described how she had kept the news of my brotherโ€™s death from our ailing father and on the evening that he was brought home, chapel bells rang out and kept ringing in honor of him, his valor, and my father kept asking if it was a bishop or something that was visiting the parish, not knowing that it was his own son.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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Do writers have to be such monsters in order to create? I believe that they do. It is a paradox that while wrestling with language to capture the human condition they become more callous, and cut off from the very human traits which they so glistening depict. There can be no outer responsibility, no interruptions, only the ongoing inner drone, rhythmic, insistent, struggling to make a living moment of both beauty and austerity.
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Edna O'Brien (JAMES JOYCE (GRAND FIGUR LIT))
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We were a bookish family. we loved our books, but before long they were lined up next to the stove and my mother and my uncle fought over which should go first and which should be saved to the very last. The Iliad was a beautiful first edition, the pride of our library, but it too went: Agamemnon, king of men, Nestor, flower of Achaean chivalry, the Black Ships, Patroclus' corpse, Helen's bracelets, Cassandra's shrieks, all met the flames, for he sake of two or three suppers. My uncle was loath to let Mark Twain go...Huckleberry Finn and his river did not deserve such an ignominious end.
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Edna O'Brien (The Little Red Chairs)
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like what Martin Amis said: deploring egotism in novelists is like deploring violence in boxers. There was a time when everyone understood this. And there was a time when young writers believed that writing was a vocationโ€”like being a nun or a priest, as Edna Oโ€™Brien said. Remember?โ€ โ€œYes, as I also remember Elizabeth Bishop saying thereโ€™s nothing more embarrassing than being a poet. The problem of self-loathing isnโ€™t new. Whatโ€™s new is the idea that itโ€™s the people with the history of greatest injustice who have the greatest right to be heard, and that the time has come for the arts not just to make room for them but to be dominated by them.
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Sigrid Nunez (The Friend)
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Oh, God, who does not exist, you hate women, otherwise you'd have made them different. And Jesus, who snubbed your mother, you hate them more. Roaming around all that time with a bunch of men, fishing; and sermons-on-the-mount. Abandoning women. I thought of all the women who had it, and didn't even know when the big moment was, and others saying their rosary with the beads held over the side of the bed, and others saying, "Stop, stop, you dirty old dog," and others yelling desperately to be jacked right up to their middles, and it often leading to nothing, and them getting up out of bed and riding a poor door knob and kissing the wooden face of a door and urging with foul language, then crying, wiping the knob, and it all adding up to nothing either.
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Edna O'Brien (Girls in Their Married Bliss (The Country Girls Trilogy, #3))
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If I could feel like myself Iโ€™d thank God but I donโ€™t feel and never will.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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I cannot be certain what I would have said. I knew that there was something sad and faintly distasteful about love's ending, particularly love that has never been fully realised. I might have hinted at that, but I doubt it. In our deepest moments we say the most inadequate things." Edna O'Brien, short story "Sister Imelda", in "Returning".
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Edna O'Brien (Country Girl)
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The day I brought my suicide dream he got quite conversant. The dream was thus. I had gone to Holland to avail myself of their suicide hospitality. It was a sort of garage, the light from the fluorescent tubes ghastly bright. We were told to sit for a given time. The waiting was perhaps to allow the sufferers to make peace with themselves or maybe write a last letter to kith and kin. Not once did we acknowledge one another.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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like a bell at the interval in the theater, and we all stood up and formed an orderly line to go in and meet our end. At the very last minute I panicked. I realized that my children would see it as an everlasting betrayal and so I went to an attendant and asked to be excused, to be allowed to turn back, except that it was too late.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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I had clung to the fable of the Steppenwolf, believing that his redemption would also become mine.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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Oh Father, oh Mother, forgive us, for we know not what we do.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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a mammyโ€™s boy who never married and who keeps a shotgun in case of trespassers, but loves his trees, loves his woodland, and honors a covenant set down by his great-uncle, which was that no tree should ever be wantonly cut down.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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My mother is dead, my mother is dead,โ€ she kept saying it in her numbed state, because it had not sunk in. It is outside of her, it is a figment, both because it is so sudden and because she cannot pinpoint the exact moment, it being such and such a time in one land and a different time on the clock of the other. It had happened in lost time. The three previous days are jumbled,
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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THE TWO OTHER GIRLS in the room, Mabel and Deirdre, said I imagined it. But they were wrong. My brother appeared to me there. A beam of light from the streetlamp lay in a crooked zigzag along the floor, toward the bed, and my brother stepped onto it, his face pensive but not crying, dressed as he might be for a wedding, his good suit, his collar and tie, and not a mark on him, no bloodstain,
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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Michael, my darling light. Be sure to have Masses said for the repose of his soul and for us. Your loving mother, Bridget
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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four of us slept in the one bed, two at the bottom and two at the top. All of us tossed and turned and raved in our sleep.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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evening when I got back from the convent where I worked part-time my clothes were in a bundle on the step, my name in big print on a label on top. At first I thought it was a joke, but when I examined it I saw that every stitch I owned was in there, my pleated skirt, my good shoes, laddered stockings, my brush and comb, my prayer book, everything.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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is the unseen guest at every table, the silent listener to every conversationโ€โ€”her mother thereby inferring that she too would be the unseen guest and the silent listener to every conversation.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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She had eloped in a trance, in haste, her docility a mask, a thousand hers revolting within herself and toward him. Yet coexisting with her flounder was the hope that one evening he would call her into his study and they would talk openly, talk of the things that had kept them apart and from their candor there would be born a real love, a lasting love that they had both envisaged. ย  The news of her pregnancy elated him.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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it would bring good luck. It was a silverfish with gold-threaded scales and when she put it in the palm of my hand, I felt it spring backward as if it was a real fish, something telling in it.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)
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Mr. Coaxyoram himself and many a young girl soft on him, but oh, what a gentleman and from a scion of gentlemen. I learned that it was his horse, Red River, that would be played for. He had given it to his friend Jacksie who had lost his all gambling, and the lady heโ€™d been engaged to had jilted him and had not even returned the engagement ring that was his motherโ€™s, which was an heirloom.
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Edna O'Brien (The Light of Evening)