atonement-ian mcewan

I’ll wait for you. Come back. The words were not meaningless, but they didn’t touch him now. It was clear enough-one person doing nothing, over time, while another approached. Waiting was a heavy word. He could not even form her face. He forced his thoughts towards the new situation, the one that was supposed to make him happy. The intricacies were lost to him, the urgency had died.” (261)

 

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3 thoughts on “atonement-ian mcewan

  1. “So they wrote about literature, and used characters as codes….Mention of ‘a quiet corner in a library’ was a code for sexual ecstasy…..When she wrote, ‘I went to the library today to get the anatomy book I told you about. I found a quiet corner and pretended to read’, he knew she was feeding on the same memories that consumed him every night, beneath thin prison blankets.” (204-5)

    “They sat down, looked at each other, smiled and looked away. Robbie and Cecilia had been making love for years-by post. In their coded exchanges they had drawn close, but how artificial that closeness seemed now as they embarked on their small-talk, their helpless catechism of polite query and response. As the distance opened up between them, they understood how far they had run ahead of themselves in their letters. This moment had been imagined and desired for too long, and could not measure up. He had been out of the world, and lacked the confidence to step back and reach for the larger thought.” (205)

    and still, this remains a problem of innernet love.

    “Throughout his training, they continued to write. Liberated from censorship and the need to be inventive, they proceeded cautiously. Impatient with living on the page, mindful of the difficulties, they were wary of getting ahead of the touch of hands and a single bus-stop kiss. They said they loved each other, used ‘darling’ and ‘dearest’, and knew their future was together, but they held back from wilder intimacies. Their business now was to remain connected until those two weeks.” (207)

  2. “At the age of eleven she wrote her first story-a foolish affair, imitative of half a dozen folk tales and lacking, she realised later, that vital knowingness about the ways of the world which compels a reader’s respect. But this first clumsy attempt showed her that the imagination itself was a source of secrets: once she had begun a story, no one could be told. Pretending in words was too tentative, too vulnerable, too embarrassing to let anyone know.” (6)

    “The rehearsals also offended her sense of order. The self-contained world she had drawn with clear and perfect lines had been defaced with the scribble of other minds, other needs; and time itself, so easily sectioned on paper into acts and scenes, was even now dribbling uncontrollably away.” (36-7)

    “It seemed so obvious now that it was too late: a story was a form of telepathy. By means of inking symbols into a page, she was able to send thoughts and feelings from her mind to her reader’s. It was a magical process, so commonplace that no one stopped to wonder at it. Reading a sentence and understanding it were the same thing; as with the crooking of a finger, nothing lay between them. There was no gap during which the symbols were unravelled.” (37)

    “It was a construction she must have once overheard, and she had uttered it in blind faith, like an apprentice mouthing the incantation of a magus.” (59)

    “And though it horrified her, it was another entry, a moment of coming into being, another first: to be hated by an adult. Children hated generously, capriciously. It hardly mattered. But to be the object of adult hatred was an initiation into a solemn new world. It was promotion.” (157)

    “She liked to write out what she imagined to be their rambling thoughts. She was under no obligation to tell the truth, she had promised no one a chronicle. This was the only place she could be free. She built little stories-not very convincing, somewhat overwritten-around the people on the ward. For a while she thought of herself as a kind of medical Chaucer, whose wards thronged with colourful types, coves, topers, old hats, nice dears with a sinister secret to tell. In later years she regretted not being more factual, not providing herself with a store of raw material. It would have been useful to know what happened, what it looked like, who was there, what was said. At the time, the journal preserved her dignity: she might look and behave like and live the life of a trainee nurse, but she was really an important writer in disguise. And at a time when she was cut off from everything she knew-family, home, friends-writing was the thread of continuity. It was what she had always done.” (280)

  3. “It sounded to her like sophistry, or an explanation for its own sake. How could anyone presume to know the world through the eyes of an insect? Not everything had a cause, and pretending otherwise was an interference in the workings of the world that was futile, and could even lead to grief. Some things were simply so.” (149)

    “But Cecilia, having learned modern forms of snobbery at Cambridge, considered a man with a degree in chemistry incomplete as a human being. Her very words. She had lolled about for three years in Girton with the kind of books she could equally have read at home-Jane Austen, Dickens, Conrad, all in the library downstairs, in complete sets. How had that pursuit, reading the novels that others took as their leisure, let her think she was superior to anyone else? Even a chemist has his uses.” (152)

    “At university, where Robbie discovered that he was cleverer than many of the people he met, his liberation was complete. Even his arrogance need not be on display.” (86)

    “As a child, Turner had once tried to persuade himself that preventing his mother’s sudden death by avoiding the pavement cracks outside his school playground was a nonsense. But he had never trodden on them and she had not died.” (255)

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