‘These agitated periods of sleep-speech were mercifully brief, and when they ended she would subside for a time, sweating and panting, into a state of dreamless exhaustion. Then abruptly she would awake again, convinced, in her disoriented state, that there was an intruder in her bedroom. There was no intruder. The intruder was an absence, a negative space in the darkness. She had no mother. Her mother had died giving her birth: the ambassador’s wife had told her this much, and the ambassador, her father, had confirmed it. Her mother had been Kashmiri, and was lost to her, like paradise, like Kashmir, in a time before memory.’

– Salman Rushdie, Shalimar the Clown

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‘One afternoon as she was typing, her hand began to shake. When she held up her other hand, it was shaking, too. She felt the way she had on the Greyhound bus that weekend Jace had told her about the blonde, when she kept thinking: This can’t be my life. And then she thought that most of her life she had been thinking: This can’t be my life.’

– Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

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‘The house is filling up. People move down the hallway and out onto the front porch. Some of the fishermen have come over from Sabbatus Cove, all scrubbed-looking. Their big shoulders slumped, they seem sheepish, apologetic, as they move into the living room, taking the tiny brownies with their big hands.’

– Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

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‘A picture of Henry as a small child. Huge-eyed and curly-haired, he was looking at the photographer (his mother?) with a child’s fear and wonder. Another photo of him in the navy, tall and thin, just a kid, really, waiting for life to begin. You will marry a beast and love her, Olive thought. You will have a son and love him. You will be endlessly kind to townspeople as they come to you for medicine, tall in your white lab coat. You will end your days blind and mute in a wheelchair. That will be your life.’

– Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge

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‘The sight of the waves miles out, their dutiful and frenetic solitude, their dull indifference to their fate, made me want to cry out… It came to me then that the sea is not a pattern, it is a struggle. Nothing matters against the fact of this. The waves were like people batttling out there, full of consciousness and will and destiny and an abiding sense of their own beauty.’

– Colm Tóibín, The Empty Family

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‘Contrary to common-sense understanding, the transformations of self-identity are not just a personal matter. Historical shifts out there provide the social conditions of existence of personal and psychic change in here… From this I came to understand that identity is not a set of fixed attributes, the unchanging essence of the inner self, but a constantly shifting process of positioning. We tend to think of identity as taking us back to our roots, the part of us which remains essentially the same across time. In fact identity is always a never-completed process of becoming – a process of shifting identifications, rather than a singular, complete, finished state of being.’

– Stuart Hall, Familiar Stranger

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