Book//mark - The Go-Between | L.P. Hartley, 1953

 
L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between, 1953                                            L.P. Hartley (1895-1972) by Henry Lamb, 1938


“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

“To my mind's eye, my buried memories of Brandham Hall are like effects of chiaroscuro, 
patches of light and dark: it is only with effort that I see them in terms of colour. There are 
things I know, though I don't know how I know them, and things that I remember. Certain 
things are established in my mind as facts, but no picture attaches to them; on the other hand
 there are pictures unverified by any fact which recur obsessively, like the landscape of a dream.”

“You insisted on thinking of them as angels, even if they were fallen angels.”

“To see things as they really were--what an empoverishment!”

"I was the smallest of the planets, and if I carried messages between them and I couldn’t always
 understand, that was in order, too: they were something in a foreign language—star-talk."

“But I was not so much interested in facts themselves as in the importance they had for my
 imagination. I was passionately interested in railways, and in the relative speed of the fastest 
express trains; but I did not understand the principle of the steam engine and had no wish 
to learn.”

"The shrub had spread amazingly; it topped the roofless walls, it pressed into their crannies,
 groping for an outlet, urged by a secret explosive force that I felt would burst them. It had 
battened on the heat, which had parched everything else. Its beauty, of which I was well aware,
 was too bold for me, too uncompromising in every particular. The sullen, heavy purple bells 
wanted something of me that I could not give, the bold black burnished berries offered me 
something that I did not want. “All other plants,” I thought, “bloom for the eye; they are 
perfected for our view: the mysterious principle of growth is manifest in them, mysterious 
yet simple.” But this plant seemed to be up to something, to be carrying on a questionable 
traffic with itself. There was no harmony, no proportion in its parts. It exhibited all the stages 
of its development at once. It was young, middle-aged, and old at the same time. Not only did it
 bear its fruit and flowers together, but there was a strange discrepancy between the size of its 
leaves: some were no longer than my little finger, others much longer than my hand. It invited 
and yet repelled inspection, as if it was harbouring some shady secret that it yet wanted you to 
know. Outside the shed, twilight was darkening the air, but inside it was already night, night
 that the plant had gathered to itself."

"During my breakdown I was like a train going through a series of tunnels; 
sometimes in the daylight; sometimes in the dark."

“Grown-ups didn't seem to realize that for me, as for most other schoolboys,
 it was easier to keep silent than to speak. I was a natural oyster.”

“But what I heard was a low insistent murmur, with pauses for reply in which no reply was made. 
It had a hypnotic quality that I had never heard in any voice: a blend of urgency, cajolery, and 
extreme tenderness, and with below it the deep vibrato of a held-in laugh that might break out 
at any moment. It was the voice of someone wanting something very much and confident of 
getting it, but at the same time willing, no, constrained, to plead for it with all the force 
of his being.”

“No, I thought, growing more rebellious, life has its own laws and it is for me to defend myself
 against whatever comes along, without going snivelling to God about sin, my own or other
 people's. How would it profit a man if he got into a tight place, to call he people who put
 him there miserable sinners? Or himself a miserable sinner? I disliked the levelling aspect of 
this sinnerdom, it was like a cricket match played in a drizzle, where everybody had an 
excuse - and what a dull excuse! - for playing badly. Life was meant to test a man, 
bring out his courage, initiative, resource; and I longed, I thought, to be tested: I didn't 
want to fall on my knees and call myself a miserable sinner.
But the idea of goodness did attract me, for I did not regard it as the opposite of sin. 
I saw it as something bright and positive and sustaining, like the sunshine, something 
to be adored, but from afar.”

“Not Adam and Eve, after eating the apple, could have been more upset than I was.”

“You flew too near the sun and you were scorched.”


L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between, 1953  


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