And perhaps it was also the case that, for all a lifetime's internal struggling, you were finally no more than what others saw you as. That was your nature, whether you liked it or not.

But I remember what Old Joe Hunt said when arguing with Adrian: that mental states can be inferred from actions. That's in history—Henry VIII and all that. Whereas in the private life, I think the converse is true: that you can infer past actions from current mental states.

Work would be something I jogged along with; love would be my life.

When I was still quite young I had a complete presentiment of life. It was like the nauseating smell of cooking escaping from a ventilator: you don't have to have eaten it to know that it would make you throw up.

Then, at some point, sooner or later, for this reason or that, one of them is taken away. And what is taken away is greater than the sum of what was there. This may not be mathematically possible; but it is emotionally possible.

Though why should we expect age to mellow us? If it isn't life's business to reward merit, why should it be life's business to give us warm, comfortable feelings towards its end? What possible evolutionary purpose could nostalgia serve?

To be Russian was to be pessimistic; to be Soviet was to be optimistic.

When I felt myself escaping from the earth, he commented, my reaction was not pleasure but happiness. It was a moral feeling, he added. I could hear myself living, so to speak.

In truth, he was just another man, behaving as men did in books, and she was just another woman for believing otherwise.

Isn't the most reliable form of pleasure, Flaubert implies, the pleasure of anticipation? Who needs to burst into fulfilment's desolate attic?

What had Old Joe Hunt answered when I knowingly claimed that history was the lies of the victors? As long as you remember that it is also the self-delusions of the defeated. Do we remember that enough when it comes to our private lives?

Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books.

If you remember your past too well you start blaming your present for it. Look what they did to me, that's what caused me to be like this, it's not my fault. Permit me to correct you: it probably is your fault. And kindly spare me the details.

There is violence in this supposedly tender heart of mine.

He feared me as many men fear women: because their mistresses (or their wives) understand them. They are scarcely adult, some men: they wish women to understand them, and to that end they tell them all their secrets; and then, when they are properly understood, they hate their women for understanding them.

He had a better mind and a more rigorous temperament than me; he thought logically, and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us, I suspect, do the opposite: we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it. And call the result common sense.

Would you rather love the more, and suffer the more; or love the less, and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.

Remorse, etymologically, is the action of biting again: that's what the feeling does to you. Imagine the strength of the bite when I reread my words. They seemed like some ancient curse I had forgotten even uttering.

One weekend in the vacation, I was invited to meet her family. They lived in Kent, out on the Orpington line, in one of those suburbs which had stopped concreting over nature at the very last minute, and ever since smugly claimed rural status.

People prefer to get what they want rather than what they deserve.

Wisdom consists partly in not pretending anymore, in discarding artifice.

And in these times, people were always in danger of becoming less than fully themselves. If you terrorised them enough, they became something else, something diminished and reduced: mere techniques for survival. And so, it was not just an anxiety, but often a brute fear that he experienced: the fear that love's last days had come.

At best you have one of those debilitating conditions which come in many forms, and which some people decline to admit actually exist.

Truths about writing can be framed before you've published a word; truths about life can be framed only when it's too late to make any difference.

His experience of life had left him with the belief that getting through the first sixteen years or so was fundamentally a question of damage limitation.

Nature is so exact, it hurts exactly as much as it is worth, so in a way one relishes the pain, I think. If it didn't matter, it wouldn't matter.

He died a modern death, in hospital,........after medical science had prolonged his life to a point where the terms on which it was being offered were unimpressive.

The emphasis is on the lost, the abandoned, the discarded sinners, God's detritus.

There are two essential kinds of loneliness: that of not having found someone to love, and that of having been deprived of the one you did love. The first kind is worse. Nothing can compare to the loneliness of the soul in adolescence.

He didn't really like travel, of course. He liked the idea of travel, and the memory of travel, but not travel itself.

The rainbow in place of the unicorn? Why didn't God just restore the unicorn? We animals would have been happier with that, instead of a big hint in the sky about God's magnanimity every time it stopped raining.

If I hadn't decided on cremation and a scattering, I could have used the phrase as an epitaph on a chunk of stone or marble: Tony Webster—He Never Got It. But that would be too melodramatic, even self-pitying. How about He's on His Own Now? That would be better, truer. Or maybe I'll stick with: Every Day Is Sunday.

We muddle along, we let life happen to us, we gradually build up a store of memories. There is the question of accumulation, but not in the sense that Adrian meant, just the simple adding up and adding on of life. And as the poet pointed out, there is a difference between addition and increase.

If these are indeed the spirits of Englishmen and Englishwomen who have passed over into the next world, surely they would know how to form a proper queue?

Had she told him that she loved him? Yes, of course, many times; but it was his imagination—the prompter's voice at his ear—which had added the words for ever. He hadn't asked what she meant when she told him she loved him. What lover ever does? Those plush and gilded words rarely seem to need annotation at the time.

Silent or gagged women are powerless women. A powerful woman is one who can speak out to challenge existing power structures or to explore previously taboo territory.

Most of us have only one story to tell. I don't mean that only one thing happens to us in our lives: there are countless events, which we turn into countless stories. But there's only one that matters, only one finally worth telling. This is mine.

None of this, of course, was ever stated: the genteel social Darwinism of the English middle classes always remained implicit.

Such was humanity's self-love, Nadar concluded, that most were inevitably disappointed when they finally saw a true image of themselves.

The best life for a writer is the life which helps him write the best books he can.

Atheism, which is mere emptiness and too depressing for words, and leads to socialism.

Everything in art depends on execution: the story of a louse can be as beautiful as the story of Alexander. You must write according to your feelings, be sure those feelings are true, and let everything else go hang. When a line is good it ceases to belong to any school. A line of prose must be as immutable as a line of poetry.

History just burps, and we taste again that raw-onion sandwich it swallowed centuries ago.

Try as I could—which wasn't very hard—I rarely ended up fantasising a markedly different life from the one that has been mine. I don't think this is complacency; it's more likely a lack of imagination, or ambition, or something.

This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn't turn out to be like Literature. Look at our parents—were they the stuff of Literature? At best, they might aspire to the condition of onlookers and bystanders, part of a social backdrop against which real, true, important things could happen.

But life never lets you go, does it? You can't put down life the way you put down a book.

Arthur was frequently baffled by the complacency with which people went on with what they insouciantly called their lives, as if both the word and the thing made perfect sense to them.

The past is something we can neither hold on to nor move entirely beyond.

I'd ban coincidences, if I were a dictator of fiction. Well, perhaps not entirely. Coincidences would be permitted in the picaresque; that's where they belong. Go on, take them: let.