An Ode to 11 Thought-Provoking Life Quotes from Julian Barnes’ The Sense of An Ending

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The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes is a slow burner. It is the first time I took to a Booker Prize winner, enjoying it thoroughly from start to finish without my interest wavering or feeling unnecessarily overwhelmed. It was not grim at all, and that took me by surprise, for I was expecting a story as gloomy as the title. I was hooked to the mystifying story arc and character sketches. Even more amusing was how the characters spoke – sometimes comical, sometimes pessimistic, sometimes a bit aggravating (as intended).

Several instances and dialogues in the book offer a different perspective on life and its various eccentricities. I have listed some of my favorite lines below.

“History is the certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

“He was too clever. If you’re that clever, you can argue yourself into anything. You just leave common sense behind.”

“He thought logically and then acted on the conclusion of logical thought. Whereas most of us, I suspect, do the opposite: we make an instinctive decision, then build up an infrastructure of reasoning to justify it. And call the result common sense.”

“Some Englishman once said that marriage is a long, dull meal with the pudding served first.”

“History isn’t the lies of the victors, as I once glibly assured Old Joe Hunt; I know that now. It’s more the memories of the survivors, most of whom are neither victorious nor defeated.”

“There were some women who aren’t at all mysterious but are only made so by men’s inability to understand them.”

“It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves, when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.”

“But time … how time first grounds us and then confounds us. We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe. We imagined we were being responsible but were only being cowardly. What we called realism turned out to be a way of avoiding things rather than facing them. Time … give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical.”

“The question of accumulation – you put money on a horse, it wins, and your winnings go one to the next horse in the next race, and so on. Your winnings accumulate. But do your losses? Not at the racetrack – there, you just lose your original stake. But in life? Perhaps here, different rules apply. You bet on a relationship, it fails; you go on to the next relationship, it fails too: and maybe what you lose is not two simple minus sums but the multiple of what you staked. That’s what it feels like, anyway. Life isn’t just addition and subtraction. There’s also the accumulation, the multiplication, of loss, of failure.”

“Because just as all political and historical change sooner or later disappoints, so does adulthood. So does life. Sometimes I think the purpose of life is to reconcile us to its eventual loss by wearing us down, by proving, however long it takes, that life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

“I had a friend who trained as a lawyer, then became disenchanted and never practised. He told me that the one benefit of those wasted years was that he no longer feared either the law or lawyers. And something like that happens more generally, doesn’t it? The more you learn, the less you fear. ‘Learn’ not in the sense of academic study, but in the practical understanding of life.”

An Ode to 17 Thought-Provoking Life Quotes from Fredrik Backman’s Beartown

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I am a big fan of Fredrik Backman, even though I have read only 2 of his books.

The first one was A Man Called Ove. I completed the second one quite recently. It is a beautiful, emotional, intense story of a sleepy little cold town called Beartown. A place where people are laidback in all things except one – ice hockey. Their love for the sport transcends everything. It reminds me of professional football club fans. The same passion, the same energy, the same love. The same disappointment when their team loses or when a controversy pops up. If you are a sports fan or know someone who is, you would find this book extremely relatable.

Fredrik Backman is a genius when it comes to explaining moments and expressing emotions. I got goosebumps while reading through many of the quotes in Beartown.

I am listing some of my favorites here.

“The only thing the sport gives us are moments. But what the hell is life, Peter, apart from moments?”

“Being a parent makes you feel like a blanket that’s always too small. No matter how hard you try to cover everyone, there’s always someone who’s freezing.”

“Religion is something between you and other people; it’s full of interpretations and theories and opinions. But faith … that’s just between you and God.”

“People sometimes say that sorrow is mental but longing is physical. One is a wound, the other an amputated limb, a withered petal compared to a snapped stem.”

“One of all the terrible effects of grief is that we interpret its absence as egotism. It’s impossible to explain what you have to do in order to carry on after a funeral, how to put the pieces of a family back together again, how to live with the jagged edges. So what do you end up asking for? You ask for a good day. One single good day. A few hours of amnesia.”

“In a few years’ time she’ll read an old newspaper article about research showing that the part of the brain that registers physical pain is the same part that registers jealousy. And then Ana will understand why she hurt so badly.”

“A great deal is expected of anyone who’s been given a lot.”

“Community is the fact that we work towards the same goal, that we accept our respective roles in order to reach it. Values is the fact that we trust each other. That we love each other.”

“If Peter has learned one thing about human nature during all his years in hockey, it’s that almost everyone regards themselves as a good team player, but that very few indeed understand what that really means.”

“When you can accept the worst aspects of your teammates because you love the collective, that’s when you’re a team player.”

“Because the thing you can never be prepared for when you have children is your increased sensitivity. Not just feeling, but hypersensitivity. He didn’t know he was capable of feeling this much, to the point where he can hardly bear to be in his own skin.”

“One of the first things you learn as a leader, whether you choose the position or have it forced upon you, is that leadership is as much about what you don’t say as what you do say.”

“The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.”

“Every child in every town in every country has at some point played games that are dangerous to the point of being lethal. Every gang of friends includes someone who always takes things too far, who is the first to jump from the highest rock, the last to jump across the rails when the train comes. That child isn’t the bravest, just the least frightened. And possibly the one who feels he or she doesn’t have as much to lose as the others.”

“The simplest and truest thing David knows about hockey is that teams win games. It doesn’t matter how good a coach’s tactics are: if they’re to stand any chance of working, first the players need to believe in them.”

“Fighting isn’t hard. It’s the starting and stopping that are hard.”

“There are few words that are harder to explain than ‘loyalty’. It’s always regarded as a positive characteristic, because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for each other occur precisely because of loyalty. The only problem is that many of the very worst things we do to each other occur because of the same thing.”