Russell Hoban quotations used in SA4QE

This is a list of quotations from Russell Hoban's books used in the annual SA4QE fan event. Click on the novel title for details of that book, or on the "read more" link for details of who chose the quotation and where they left it.

The studio was two storeys high with a skylight; for a moment we stood in darkness looking up at the sky, then Roswell switched on two banks of fluorescent lights and there leapt into view a crucified crash-dummy. ‘Oh my God,’ I said.  Up there on the cross it looked enormous at first but then I realised it was only life-size.

The cross was leaning against the wall as if the figure had just been nailed to it and raised up to hang there until dead. The figure was of pale wood, unpainted except for the usual black-and-yellow discs, the blood from the wound in its side and those in its hands and feet; there was also a little blood from the shiny chromium crown of thorns on its bald and eyeless head. The figure was more elongated than the dummies I’d seen in photographs and on television; this had an El Greco effect that accentuated the pain not visible on the blankness of the face. The cross was of a rough dark wood that heightened the pale vulnerability of the body. There was no INRI. 

After the first shock a wave of sadness swept over me; my throat ached and my nose tingled and I thought I might cry but I didn’t. This sadness wasn’t from the crash-dummy Christ but from thinking of the poorness of spirit that had led Roswell to spend all those hours carving it. His soul must be absolutely skint, I thought, for him to come up with this. The reduction of Christ to a dummy made to crash into the wall of our sins, the stripping of a complex and haunting idea to a simplistic metaphor, made me so sorry for Roswell that my heart opened to him and I wanted to take him in my arms and rock him like a baby. I realised that I was standing there looking gobsmacked and I tried to find something to say.

Shakespeare didn't invent Caliban; Caliban invented Shakespeare (and Sigmund Freud, and one or two others). Caliban is one of those hungry ideas, always looking for someone to word him into being so he can have another go and maybe win Miranda this time or next time. Caliban is a necessary idea. I can imagine The Tempest without Ferdinand but not without Caliban. 

On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen. He dint make the groun shake nor nothing like that when he come on to my spear he wernt all that big plus he lookit poorly. He done the reqwyrt he ternt and stood and clattert his teef and made his rush and there we wer then. Him on 1 end of the spear kicking his life out and me on the other end watching him dy. I said, 'Your tern now my tern later.' The other spears gone in then and he wer dead and the steam coming up off him in the rain and we all yelt, 'Offert!'

An ordinary mirror is silvered at the back but the window of a night train has darkness behind the glass. My face and the faces of the other travellers were now mirrored on this darkness in a succession of stillnesses. Consider this, said the darkness: any motion at any speed is a succession of stillnesses; any section through an action will show just such a plane of stillness as this dark window in which your seeking face is mirrored. And in each plane of stillness is the moment of clarity that makes you responsible for what you do.
Consider this, said the train wheels, repeating the message tirelessly moment after moment on the miles of cold iron that lay shining in the dark that led to Harwich and repeating face on face the faces reflected in the windows.

It was an earthy dance, nothing of it moved up into the air, it was as if earth had formed itself into a man and the man was dancing himself slowly back into the earth. Bembel Rudzuk danced more and more slowly and more and more deeply until the body I saw before me stood motionless like the nymphal shell left behind by a dragonfly. But Bembel Rudzuk, unlike the dragonfly, seemed not to have flown away into the air but to have danced himself out of his body into the earth.
The shell of Bembel Rudzuk opened its eyes and Bembel Rudzuk looked out of them.
“Was this your dream?” I said. “Were you dancing your dream?”
“Earth,” he said. “I was dancing earth.”
“Are you awake?” I said.
“Which is the dream?” he said.

I knew that my time was coming soon, I knew that I must be alert to recognize the time and place so that my death might be the best possible. But even as that thought moved through my mind it was hurried on its way by another thought coming behind it. This second thought asked whether it might not be only vanity and a striving after wind to want so much for one’s death; whether it might not be better to require nothing whatever of it or for it but simply to welcome it whenever and however it might come, to welcome it as one welcomes the stranger to whom one must always show hospitality.

With that feeling came an understanding that from then on every moment would be – indeed always had been – as the last moment. This wants to be made perfectly clear, it may be the only thing I have to say that matters; this idea has for me both the brilliance of the heart of the diamond of the universe and the inverse brilliance of the heart of the blackness in which that diamond lives: this moment that is every moment is always the last moment and it came into being with the first moment; it is that moment of creation in which there comes into being the possibility of all things and the end of all things; it is the blossoming jewel at the heart of the explosion, the calm quiet dawn at the centre of the bursting.

‘“Orpheus,” she said to me softly, “now the story has found us, now we have become story and I must leave you.”

   ‘“Why?” I said. “Why must you leave me?”

   ‘“Because Eurydice is the one who cannot stay,” she said. “Eurydice is the one who is lost to you, the one you will seek for ever and never find again. Eurydice is the one of whom you will say ‘If only I had known what she was to me!’”

   ‘“If only I had known what you were to me!” I said.

   ‘“You did know,” she said. “Orpheus always knows and he always does what he does and Eurydice becomes lost to him.”

One assumes that the world simply is and is and is but it isn't, it is like music that we hear a moment at a time and put together in our heads. But this music, unlike other music, cannot be performed again.

At South Kensington I rose from the depths, escalated to the upper world, passed through the arcade and the queue at the 14 bus stop, crossed between the cars and walked up Exhibition Road where soft ice-cream and hot dogs sweltered and coachloads of emptiness waited for their children to return. The sunlight, crazed with detail, explored every wrinkle, whisker, pore and pimple of tourists consuming Coca- Cola, mineral water, coffee, tea, hot dogs, soft ice-cream, exhaust fumes, and culture.

The sunlight explored me as well as my footsteps joined those of generations of children, mums, dads, teachers and others all the way back to the heavy tread of Roman legions marching with their standards and centurions up Exhibition Road to the Victoria and Albert, the Natural History, and the Science Museum thirsting for dinosaurs, volcanoes, Indian bronzes, William Morris, and steam locomotives. Not only was I prepared to have empty spaces in me filled with wonders, I was vaguely excited and expectant, as if the sluggish air were alive with possibilities.

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