A Pelican at Blandings

  • She had no objection to some men being young –  waiters, for instance, or policemen or representatives of the country in the Olympic games – but in a man whose walk in life was to delve into people’s subconscious and make notes of what came up, one expected something more elderly.


  • He was wearing rubber soled shoes and stepped softly as befitted a man engaged on a perilous mission.

  • John shook his head. A wasted gesture of course, for a man cloaked in darkness towards another man also cloaked in darkness.

    Ghosts do, of course, keep late hours but they do not switch electric lights.

  • … words – perhaps fortunately – failed him.

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Feet of Clay

Only crimes could take place in the darkness. Punishment had to take place in the light.

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A Mathematician’s Apology

Judged by all practical standards, the value of my mathematical life is nil; and outside mathematics it is trivial anyhow. I have just one chance of escaping a verdict of triviality, that I may be judged to have created something worth creating. And that I have created something is undeniable: the question is about its value.

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Small Gods

It is a popular fact that nine-tenths of the brain is not used and, like most popular facts, it is wrong… It is used. And one of its functions is to make the miraculous seem ordinary and turn the unusual into the usual.

Fear is a strange soil. Mainly it grows obedience like corn, which grows in rows and makes weeding easy. But sometimes it grows the potatoes of defiance, which flourish underground.

You will probably defeat us. But not all of us. And then what will you do? Leave a garrison? For ever? And eventually a new generation will retaliate. Why you did this won’t mean anything to them. You’ll be the oppressors. They’ll fight. They might even win. And there’ll be another war. And one day people will say: why didn’t they sort it all out, back then? On the beach. Before it all started. Before all those people died. Now we have that chance. Aren’t we lucky?

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Angela’s Ashes

I don’t know what it means and I don’t care because it’s Shakespeare and it’s like having jewels in my mouth when I say the words.

I say, Billy, what’s the use in playing croquet when you’re doomed?
He says, Frankie, what’s the use of not playing croquet when you’re doomed?

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All Quiet on the Western Front

“But what I like to know,” says Albert, “is whether there would not have been a war if the Kaiser had said No … Well, if not him alone, then perhaps if twenty or thirty people in the world had said No.”

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Interesting Times

‘Do teachers go anywhere special when they die?’ said Cohen.

‘I don’t think so,’ said Mr Savelop gloomily. He wondered for a moment whether there really was a great Free Period in the sky. It didn’t sound very likely. Probably there would be some marking to do.

‘Are we meddling with things we don’t understand, Ponder?’

… He thought: meddle first, understand later. You had to meddle a bit before you had anything to try to understand. And the thing was never, ever, to go back and hide in the Lavatory of Unreason. You have to try to get your mind around the Universe before you can give it a twist.

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