There is something peculiarly dispriting about the emptiness that wells up when, in a strange city, one dials the same telephone numbers in vain.

Is the destruction not, rather, irrefutable proof that the catastrophes which develop, so to speak, in our hands and seem to break out suddenly are a kind of experiment, anticipating the point at which we shall drop out of what we will have thought for so long to be our autonomous history and back into the history of nature?

He was at once saving himself, in some way, and mercilessly destroying himself.

It was as if an illness that had been latent in me for a long time were now threatening to erupt, as if some soul-destroying and inexorable force had fastened upon me and would gradually paralyze my entire system.

When I was a boy, I'd hide under the kitchen table and wind string around the chairs. I have a sense now that I am pulling on those threads. The more I pull, the more it comes unraveled.

Where I grew up, in a remote village at the back of a valley, the old still thought the dead needed attending to - a notion so universal, it's enscribed in all religions. If you didn't, they might exact revenge upon the living.

Memories lie slumbering within us for months and years, quietly proliferating, until they are woken by some trifle and in some strange way blind us to life.

This, I thought, will be what is left after the earth has ground itself down.

How I wished during those sleepless hours that I belonged to a different nation, or better still, to none at all.

Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the precise degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see in the increasing complexity of our mental constructs a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life.

Anthropological theory assumes that exposure in a treeless situation where all escape upwards was cut off led to the invention of myths. Kafka's ape, dragged into human society, expresses very similar ideas in his 'Report for an Academy'. It is the absence of any way of escape that has forced him to become human himself.

It is thanks to my evening reading alone that I am still more or less sane.

Unfortunately I am a completely impractical person, caught up in endless trains of thought. All of us are fantasists, ill-equipped for life, the children as much as myself. It seems to me sometimes that we never get used to being on this earth and life is just one great, ongoing, incomprehensible blunder.

From the outset my main concern was with the shape and the self-contained nature of discrete things, the curve of banisters on a staircase, the molding of a stone arch over a gateway, the tangled precision of the blades in a tussock of dried grass.

Unlike Conrad or Nabokov, I didn't have circumstances which would have coerced me out of my native tongue altogether.

Occasionally I write a small piece or the odd lecture in English, and I teach in English, but my fiction is always written in German.

No one can explain exactly what happens within us when the doors behind which our childhood terrors lurk are flung open.

A subject which at first glance seems quite removed from the undeclared concern of the book can encapsulate that concern.

The writing I do makes great demands on translators.

It would be presumptuous to say writing a book would be a sufficient gesture, but if people were more preoccupied with the past, maybe the events that overwhelm us would be fewer.

It is a sore point, because you do have advantages if you have access to more than one language. You also have problems, because on bad days you don't trust yourself, either in your first or your second language, and so you feel like a complete halfwit.

To this day there is something illusionistic and illusory about the relationship of time and space as we experience it in traveling, which is why whenever we come home from elsewhere we never feel quite sure if we have really been abroad.

This then, I thought, as I looked round about me, is the representation of history. It requires a falsification of perspective. We, the survivors, see everything from above, see everything at once, and still we do not know how it was.

I am what I am.

To set one's name to a work gives no one a title to be remembered, for who knows how many of the best of men have gone without a trace? The iniquity of oblivion blindly scatters her poppyseed and when wretchedness falls upon us one summer's day like snow, all we wish for is to be forgotten.

Because (in principle) things outlast us, they know more about us than we know about them: they carry the experiences they have had with us inside them and are - in fact- the book of our history opened before us.

The longer I carry on, the more difficult writing seems to get.

It must be extremely uncomfortable to live with a writer - all that preoccupation and brooding.

What distinguishes art from such undertaker's business is that life's closeness to death is its theme, not its addiction.

People's ability to forget what they do not want to know, to overlook what is before their eyes, was seldom put to the test better than in Germany at that time.

It is hard, said Mme Landau, when I told her about those railway lessons, in the end it is hard to know what it is that someone dies of. Yes, it is very hard, said Mme Landau, one really doesn't know.

I always read the translator's draft all the way through - a very laborious business.

England is not very easy to get in and out of.

However much or little I had written, on a subsequent reading it always seemed so fundamentally flawed that I had to destroy it immediately and begin again.

The moral backbone of literature is about that whole question of memory. To my mind it seems clear that those who have no memory have the much greater chance to lead happy lives.

Only in the books written in earlier times did she sometimes think she found some faint idea of what it might be like to be alive.

Looking back, you might say that Ambros Adelwarth the private man had ceased to exist, that nothing was left but his shell of decorum.

My father was not really a presence for me. He was away; he was in the German army.

There is a beauty in nature and culture that we no longer have access to. Those things you can't forget, you embroider... The further you tell, the further you travel from truth, which means, of course, that literature is a lie.

It was only by following the course time prescribed that we could hasten through the gigantic spaces separating us from each other.

Although I hold a German passport, I feel very much alienated when I'm there.

Men and animals regard each other across a gulf of mutual incomprehension.

From the earliest times, human civilization has been no more than a strange luminescence growing more intense by the hour, of which no one can say when it will begin to wane and when it will fade away.

Dr K. relishes the pleasures (but only, as he notes himself, the pleasures) of being declassed.

You could grow up in Germany in the postwar years without ever meeting a Jewish person. There were small communities in Frankfurt or Berlin, but in a provincial town in south Germany, Jewish people didn't exist.

Going home is not necessarily a wonderful experience. It always comes with a sense of loss and makes you so conscious of the inexorable passage of time.

My texts are written like palimpsests. They are written over and over again, until I feel that a kind of metaphysical meaning can be read through the writing.

There was nothing he found so unbearable as a well-dusted house, and he never felt more at home than in places where things remained undisturbed, muted under the grey, velvety sinter left when matter dissolved, little by little, into nothingness.

Reinforced the suspicion, I had always entertained that the border between life and death is less impermeable than we commonly think...