“It is very difficult to know people and I don’t think one can ever really know any but one’s own countrymen. For men and women are not only themselves; they are also the region in which they were born, the city apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, the old wives’ tales they overheard, the food they ate, the schools they attended, the sports they followed, the poets they read, and the God they believed in. It is all these things that have made them what they are, and these are the things that you can’t come to know by hearsay, you can only know them if you lived them. you can only know them if you are them. And because you cannot know persons of a nation foreign to you except from observation, it is difficult to give them credibility in the page of a book.”-4
“Gregory Brabazon, notwithstanding his name, was not a romantic creature. He was a short, very fat man, as bald as an egg except for a ring of black curly hair around his ears and at the back of his neck, with a red, naked face that looked as though it were on the point of breaking out into a violent sweat, quick grey eyes, sensual lips, and a bohemian parties in London. He was very jovial, very hearty, and laughed a great deal, but you didn’t have to be a great judge of character to know that his noisy friendliness was merely cover for a very astute man of business. He had been for some years the most successful decorators in London. He had a great booming voice and little fat hands that were wonderfully expressive. With telling gestures, with a spate of excited words he could thrill the imagination of a doubting client so that it was almost impossible to withhold the order be seemed to make it a favor to accept.”-15-16
“It is toss-up when you decide to leave the beaten track. Many are called but few are chosen.”-90
“Nor did Elliott find France much better. There the great ladies of his youth, if still alive, were given over to bridge (a game he loathed), piety, and the care of their grandchildren. Manufacturers, Argentines, Chileans, American women separated or divorced from their husbands, inhabited the stately houses of the aristocracy and entertained wit splendor, but at their parties Elliott was confounded to meet politicians who spoke French with a vulgar accent, journalists whose table manners were deplorable, and even actors. The scions of princely families thought it no shame to marry the daughters of shopkeepers. It was true Paris was gay, but with what a shoddy gaiety! The young, devoted to the mad pursuit of pleasure, though nothing more amusing than to go from one stuffy little night club to another, drinking champagne at a hundred francs a bottle and dancing close-packed with the riff-raff of the town until five o’clock in the morning. The smoke, the heat, the noise made Elliott’s head ache. This was not the Paris that he had accepted thirty years before as his spiritual home. The was not he Paris that good Americans went to when they died.”-121
“And as the conversation proceeded, flowing without difficulty as was natural in old friends with so many common memories, with bits of news about Chicago thrown in by Gray and Isabel, travel gossip, one thing leading to another, with airy laughter, my impression persisted that in Larry, though his laughter was frank and he listened with evident pleasure to Isabel’s breezy chatter, there was a very singular detachment. I didn’t feel that he was playing a part, he was too natural for that and he his sincerity was obvious; I felt that there was something within him, I don’t know whether to call it awareness or a sensibility or a force, that remained strangely aloof.”-149
“‘Don’t try to paint like a man, my dear,’ he said. ‘Paint like a woman. Don’t aim to be strong; be satisfied to charm. And be honest. In business sharp practice sometimes succeeds, but in art honesty is not only the best but the only policy.'”-177
“Well, Larry is, I think, the only person I’ve ever met who’s completely disinterested. It makes his action seem peculiar. We’re not used to persons who do things simply for the love of God whom they don’t believe in.”-184
“‘I strove with none, for none was worth my strife.
Nature I loved, and, next to Nature, Art;
I warmed both hands before the fire of Life;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.‘”-200
“I only want to suggest to you that self-sacrifice is a passion so overwhelming that beside it even lust and hunger are trifling. It whirls its victim to destruction in the highest affirmation of his personality. The object doesn’t matter; it may be worthwhile or it may be worthless. No wine i so intoxicating, no love so shattering, no vice so compelling. When he sacrifices himself man for a moment is greater than God, for how can God, infinite and omnipotent, sacrifice himself? At best he can only sacrifice his only begotten son.”-208
“This is the end of my story. I have heard nothing of Larry, nor indeed did I expect to. Since he generally did what he proposed, I think it is likely that on his return to America he got a job in a garage and then drove a truck till he had acquired the knowledge he wanted of the country from which he had for so many years absented himself. When he had done that he may very well have carried out random idea thrown across a cafe table in jest, but I shouldn’t be altogether surprised if he had put it into effect and I have never since taken a taxi in New York without glancing at the driver on the chance that I might meet Larry’s gravely smiling, deep-set eyes. I never have. War broke our. He would have been too old to fly, but he maybe once driving a truck, at home or abroad; or he may be working in a factory. I should like to think that in his leisure hours he is writing a book in which he is trying to set forth whatever life has taught him and the message he had to delivered to his fellow-men; but if he is, it may be long before it is finished. He has plenty of time, for the years left no mark on him and to all intents and purposes he is still a young man.
He is without ambition and he has no desire for fame; to become anything a public figure would be deeply distasteful to him; and so it may be that he is satisfied to lead his chosen life and be no more than just himself. He is too modest to set himself up as an example to others; but it may be he thinks that a few uncertain souls, drawn to him like moths to a candle, will be brought in time to share his own glowing belief that ultimate satisfaction can only be found in the life renunciation the path of perfection he will serve as well as if he wrote books or addressed multitudes.
But this is conjecture. I am of the earth, earthy; I can only admire the radiance of such a rare creature, I cannot step into his shoes and enter into his innermost heart as I sometimes think I can do with persons more nearly allied to the common run of men. Larry has been absorbed, as he wished, into that tumultuous conglomeration of humanity, distracted by so many conflicting interests, so lost in the world’s confusion, so wishful of good, so cocksure on the outside, so different within, so kind, so hard, so trustful, and so cagey, so mean and so generous, which is the people of the United States. That is all I can tell of him: I know it is very unsatisfactory; I can’t help it. but as I was finishing this book, uneasily conscious that I must leave my reader in the air and seeing no way to avoid it, I looked back with my mind’s eye on my long narrative to see if there was any way in which I could devise a more satisfactory ending; and to my intense surprise it dawn upon me that without in the least intending to I had written nothing more or less than a success story. For all the persons with whom I have been concerned got what they wanted: Elliot social eminence; Isabel an assured position backed by a substantial fortune in an active and cultured community; Gray a steady and lucrative job, with an office to go to from nine till six every day; Suzanne Rouvier security; Sophie death; and Larry happiness. And however superciliously the highbrows carp, we the public in our heart of hearts all like a success story; so perhaps my ending is not so unsatisfactory after all.”-314
I just realized there are so many marks I drew of Maugham’s portraits of the society or a particular person. He is really a master of description.His writing is not imagery at all but so skillful that I can follow the story based on verbal reasoning rather than picture the scenes and direct a moving picture in my mind.
It is been too long since the last time I’ve read anything like this.
And it is also interesting to find out that myself no longer amazed by the characters of their freshness and unfamiliarity and strangeness but interested in discovering all facets of myself and people I met in my life.
Time passes fast, really fast. All of my expectations toward myself on how am I going to grow up have been measured in books–the great books those great minds composed with words, and the heart warming books put together by lives of those I’m so lucky to know.