The weight of the old world is stifling, and trying to shovel its weight off your life is tiring just to think about. The constant shuttling of opinions is tiring, and the shuffling of papers across desks, the chopping of logic and the trimming of attitudes. There must, somewhere, be a simpler, more violent world.
When men decided women could be educated - this is what I think - they educated them on the male plan; they put them into schools with mottoes and school songs and muddy team games, they made them were collars and ties. It was a way to concede the right to learning, yet remain safe; the products of the system would always be inferior to the original model. Women were forced to imitate men, and bound not to succeed at it.
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Law of Suspects. Suspects are those: who have in any way aided tyranny (royal tyranny, Brissotin tyranny...); who cannot show that they have performed their civic duties; who do not starve, and yet have no visible means of support; who have been refused certificates of citizenship by their Sections; who have been removed from public office by the Convention or its representatives; who belong to an aristocratic family, and have not given proof of constant and extraordinary revolutionary fervor; or who have emigrated.
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Some readers read a book as if it were an instruction manual, expecting to understand everything first time, but of course when you write, you put into every sentence an overflow of meaning, and you create in every sentence as many resonances and double meanings and ambiguities as you can possibly pack in there, so that people can read it again and get something new each time.
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The door was flung open. Maurice Duplay filled it; energetic master, shirt- sleeves rolled up. He threw out his arms, the good Jacobin Duplay, and formed a sentence totally original, something which had never been uttered in the history of the world: 'Camille, you have a son, and your wife is very well, and is asking you to be at home, right now.
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In the forest you may find yourself lost, without companions. You may come to a river which is not on a map. You may lose sight of your quarry, and forget why you are there. You may meet a dwarf, or the living Christ, or an old enemy of yours; or a new enemy, one you do not know until you see his face appear between the rustling leaves, and see the glint of his dagger. You may find a woman asleep in a bower of leaves. For a moment, before you don't recognise her, you will think she is someone you know.
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He looked the Prince up and down, like a hangman taking his measurements. 'Of course there will be a revolution, ' he said. 'You are making a nation of Cromwells. But we can go beyond Cromwell, I hope. In fifteen years you tyrants and parasites will be gone. We shall have set up a republic, on the purest Roman model.
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Your fear is, that if you marry Ade¨le, you will love her. If you have children, you will love them more than anything else in the world, more than patriotism, more than democracy. If your children grow up, and prove traitors to the people, will you be able to demand their deaths, as the Romans did? Perhaps you will, but perhaps you will not be able to do it. You're afraid that if you love people you may be deflected from your duty, but it's because of another kind of love, isn't it, that the duty is laid upon you?
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I aim to make the fiction flexible so that it bends itself around the facts as we have them. Otherwise I don't see the point. Nobody seems to understand that. Nobody seems to share my approach to historical fiction. I suppose if I have a maxim, it is that there isn't any necessary conflict between good history and good drama.
and I sometimes think that the fading out of the individual personality is what one should desire, not the status of a hero-a sort of effacement of oneself from history. The entire record of the human race has been falsified, it has been made up by bad governments to suit themselves, by kings and tyrants to make them look good. This idea of history as made by great men is quite nonsensical, when you look at it from the point of view of the people. The real heroes are those who have resisted tyrants, and it is in the nature of tyranny not only to kill those who oppose it but to wipe their names out of the record, to obliterate them, so that resistance seems impossible.
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The year now is 1774. Poseurs or not, it is time to grow up. It is time to enter the public realm, the world of public acts and public attitudes. Everything that happens now will happen in the light of history. It is not a midday luminary, but a corpse-candle to the intellect; at best, it is a secondhand lunar light, error-breeding, sand-blind and parched.
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He knows different now. It's the living that chase the dead. The long bones and skulls are tumbled from their shrouds, and words like stones thrust into their rattling mouths: we edit their writings, we rewrite their lives. Thomas More had spread the rumor that Little Bilney, chained to the stake, had recanted as the fire was set. It wasn't enough for him to take Bilney's life away; he had to take his death too.
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In order not to make a liar out of Henry or Katherine, one or the other, the committee men think up circumstances in which the match may have been partly consummated, or somewhat consummated, and to do this they have to imagine every disaster and shame that can occur between a man and a woman alone in a room in the dark.
There's a feeling of power in reserve, a power that drives right through the bone, like the shiver you sense in the shaft of an axe when you take it into your hand. You can strike, or you can not strike, and if you choose to hold back the blow, you can still feel inside you the resonance of the omitted thing.
He runs his eye along the row of knives in their racks, the cleavers for splitting bones. He picks one up, looks at its edge, decides it needs sharpening and says, "Do you think I look like a murderer? In your good opinion?" A silence. After a while, Thurston proffers, "At this moment, master, I would have to say...
No man as godly as George, the only fault he finds with God is that he made folk with too few orifices. If George could meet a woman with a quinny under her armpit, he would call out 'Glory be' and set her up in a house and visit her every day, until the novelty wore off. Nothing is forbidden to George, you see. He'd go to it with a terrier bitch if she wagged her tail at him and said bow-wow.' For once he is struck silent. He knows he will never get it out of his mind, the picture of George in a hairy grapple with a little ratting dog.
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You know what it's like when a cart overturns in the street? Everybody you meet has witnessed it. They saw a man's leg sliced clean off. They saw a woman gasp her last. They saw the goods looted, thieves stealing from the back-end while the carter was crushed at the front. They heard a man roar out his last confession, while another whispered his last will and testament. And if all the people who say they were there had really been there, then the dregs of London would have drained to the one spot, the gaols emptied of thieves, the beds empty of whores, and all the lawyers standing on the shoulders of the butchers to get a better look.
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those sectaries in Europe who are always expecting the end of the world, but who hope that, after the earth has been consumed by fire, they will be seated in glory: grilled a little, crisp at the edges and blackened in parts, but still, thanks be to God, alive for eternity, and seated at his right hand.
He draws a line under his conclusions. Says, 'Gregory, what should I do about the great worm?' 'Send a commission against it, sir, ' the boy says. 'It must be put down.' He gives his son a long look. 'You do know it's Arthur Cobbler's tales?' Gregory gives him a long look back. 'Yes, I do know.' He sounds regretful. 'But it makes people so happy when I believe them.
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But you see, Crumb, it is hard to give up what you have worked at since you were a boy. There were some Italian visitors once, they were cheering us on, Brandon and myself, and they thought that Achilles and Hector had come back to life. So they said.' But which is which? One dragged through the dust by the other... The king says, 'You turn your boy out beautifully. No nobleman could do more.' 'I don't want him to be Achilles, ' he says, 'I only want him not to be flattened.
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The maid found a handkerchief of hers, under the bed in which she had died. A ring that had been missing turned up in his own writing desk. A tradesman arrived with fabric she had ordered three weeks ago. Each day, some further evidence of a task half finished, a scheme incomplete. He found a novel, with her place marked. And this is it.
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Last night he kept the vigil alone. He lay awake, wishing Liz back; waiting for her to come and lie beside him. It's true he is at Esher with the cardinal, not at home at the Austin Friars. But, he thought, she'll know how to find me. She'll look for the cardinal, drawn through the space between worlds by incense and candlelight. Whereever the cardinal is, I will be.
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He looks around at his guests. All are prepared. A Latin grace; English would be his choice, but he will suit his company. Who cross themselves ostentatiously, in papist style. Who look at him, expectant. He shouts for the waiters. The doors burst open. Sweating men heave the platters to the table. It seems the meat is fresh, in fact not slaughtered yet. It is just a minor breach of etiquette. The company must sit and salivate. The Boleyns are laid at his hand to be carved.
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One summer at the fag end of the nineties, I had to go out of London to talk to a literary society, of the sort that must have been old-fashioned when the previous century closed. When the day came, I wondered why I'd agreed to it; but yes is easier than no, and of course when you make a promise you think the time will never arrive: that there will be a nuclear holocaust, or something else diverting.
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The thing people don't understand about an army is its great, unpunctuated wastes of inaction: you have to scavenge for food, you are camped out somewhere with a rising water level because your mad capitaine says so, you are shifted abruptly in the middle of the night into some indefensible position, so you never really sleep, your equipment is defective, the gunners keep causing small unwanted explosions, the crossbowmen are either drunk or praying, the arrows are ordered up but not here yet, and your whole mind is occupied by a seething anxiety that things are going to go badly because il principe, or whatever little worshipfulness is in charge today, is not very good at the basic business of thinking. It didn't take him many winters to get out of fighting and into supply. In Italy, you could always fight in the summer, if you felt like it. If you wanted to go out.
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Concentrate on sharpening your memory and peeling your sensibility. Cut every page you write by at least one third. Stop constructing those piffling little similes of yours. Work out what it is you want to say. Then say it in the most direct and vigorous way you can. Eat meat. Drink blook. Give up your social life and don't think you can have friends. Rise in the quiet hours of the night and prick your fingertips and use the blood for ink; that will cure you of persiflage!
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But it is no use to justify yourself. It is no good to explain. It is weak to be anecdotal. It is wise to conceal the past even if there is nothing to conceal. A man's power is in the half-light, in the half-seen movements of his hand and the unguessed-at expression of his face. It is the absence of facts that frightens people: the gap you open, into which they pour their fears, fantasies, desires.
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He finds he cannot think of the dying men at all. Into his mind instead strays the picture of More on the scaffold, seen through the veil of rain: his body, already dead, folding back neatly from the impact of the axe. The cardinal when he fell had no persecutor more relentless than Thomas More. Yet, he thinks, I did not hate him. I exercised my skills to the utmost to persuade him to reconcile with the king. And I thought I would win him, I really thought I would, for he was tenacious of the world, tenacious of his person, and had a good deal to live for. In the end he was his own murderer. He wrote and wrote and he talked and talked, then suddenly at a stroke he cancelled himself. If ever a man came close to beheading himself, Thomas More was that man.
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The story of my own childhood is a complicated sentence that I am always trying to finish, to finish and put behind me. It resists finishing, and partly this is because words are not enough; my early world was synaesthesic, and I am haunted by the ghosts of my own sense impressions, which re-emerge when I try to write, and shiver between the lines.
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You come to this place, mid-life. You don't know how you got here, but suddenly you're staring fifty in the face. When you turn and look back down the years, you glimpse the ghosts of other lives you might have led; all houses are haunted. The wraiths and phantoms creep under your carpets and between the warp and weft of fabric, they lurk in wardrobes and lie flat under drawer-liners. You think of the children you might have had but didn't. When the midwife says, 'It's a boy, ' where does the girl go? When you think you're pregnant, and you're not, what happens to the child that has already formed in your mind? You keep it filed in a drawer of your consciousness, like a short story that never worked after the opening lines.
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1776: A declaration of the Parlement of Paris: The first rule of justice is to conserve for each individual that which belongs to him. This is a fundamental rule of natural law, human rights and civil government; a rule which consists not only in maintaining the rights of property, but also those rights vested in the individual and derived from prerogatives of birth and social position.
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I make up as little as possible. I spend a great deal of time on research, on finding all the available accounts of a scene or incident, finding out all the background details and the biographies of the people involved there, and I try to run up all the accounts side by side to see where the contradictions are and to look where things have gone missing. And it's really in the gap - it's in the erasures - that I think the novelist can best go to work because inevitably in history in any period, we know a lot about what happened, but we may be far hazier on why it happened. And there's always the question, why did it happen the way it did? Where was the turning point?
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The fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes: a counter pushed across a table, a pen stroke that alters the force of a phrase, a woman's sigh as she passes and leaves on the air a trail of orange flower or rose water; her hand pulling close the bed curtain, the discreet sigh of flesh against flesh.
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Just think, she said to herself. I could be living on the Right Bank. I could be married to a senior clerk at the Treasury. I could be sitting with my feet up, embroidering a linen handkerchief with a rambling-rose design. Instead I'm on the rue des Cordeliers in pursuit of a baguette, with a three-inch blade for comfort.
Fabre stood up. He placed his fingertips on d'Anton's temples. 'Put your fingers here, ' he said. 'Feel the resonance. Put them here, and here.' He jabbed at d'Anton's face: below the cheekbones, at the side of his jaw. 'I'll teach you like an actor, ' he said. 'This city is our stage.' Camille said: 'Book of Ezekiel. 'This city is the cauldron, and we the flesh'... ' Fabre turned. 'This stutter, ' he said. 'You don't have to do it.' Camille put his hands over his eyes. 'Leave me alone, ' he said. 'Even you.' Fabre's face was incandescent. 'Even you, I am going to teach.' He leapt forward, wrenched Camille upright in his chair. He took him by the shoulders and shook him. 'You're going to talk properly, ' Fabre said. 'Even if it kills one of us.' Camille put his hands protectively over his head. Fabre continued to perpetrate violence; d'Anton was too tired to intervene.
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Sion calls Anne an eel, he calls her a slippery dipper from the slime, and he remembers what the cardinal had called her: my serpentine enemy. Sion says, she goes to it with her brother; he says, what, her brother George? 'Any brother she's got. Those kind keep it in the family. They do filthy French tricks, like -' 'Can you keep your voice down?' He looks around, as if spies might be swimming by the boat. '- and that's how she trusts herself she don't give in to Henry, because if she lets him do it and she gets a boy he's, thanks very much, now clear off, girl - so she's oh, Your Highness, I never could allow - because she knows that very night her brother's inside her, licking her up to the lungs, and then he's, excuse me, sister, what shall I do with this big package - she says, oh, don't distress yourself, my lord brother, shove it up the back entry, it'll come to no harm there.
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