Any writer of any worth at all hopes to play only a pocket-torch of light—and rarely, through genius, a sudden flambeau—into the bloody yet beautiful labyrinth of human experience, of being.
- Nadine Gordimer, Writing and Being (via mttbll)



Natalia Goncharova - Illustration to the Tale of Tsar Saltan by Alexander Pushkin, 1921. 

I was once at a coffee shop eating breakfast alone when I noticed a woman standing and talking to a table of people. She was young but prematurely aged, with badly dyed hair and lined skin. She was smiling and joking, but her body had a collapsed, defeated posture that looked deeply habitual… But there was something else to her, something pushing up against the defeat, a sweet, tough, humorous vitality that I could almost see running up her center. I realized that if I hadn’t looked closely, I would not have really seen this woman, that I would not have seen what was most human and lively in her. I wondered how many people saw it, or even if she herself saw it…
That kind of small, new, unrecognized thing is very tender to me, and I hate it when it gets ignored or mistaken for something ugly. I want to acknowledge and nurture it, but I usually leave it very small in the stories. I do that because I think part of the human puzzle is in the delicacy of those moments or phenomena, contrasted with the ignorance and lack of feeling we are subject to.
- Mary Gaitskill, from Why I Write (via dolorimeter)

"And yet, and yet. The place exerts an elemental pull on me. There is no need of fascinations. People talk all the time, calling on a sense of reality that is not identical to mine. They have wonderful solutions to some nasty problems; in this I see a nobility of spirit that is rare in the world. But also, there is much sorrow, not only of the dramatic kind but also in the way that difficult economic circumstances wear people down, eroding them, preying on their weaknesses, until they do things that they themselves find hateful, until they are shadows of their best selves. The problem used to only be the leadership. But now, when you step out into the city, your oppressor is likely your fellow citizen, his ethics eroded by years of suffering and life at the cusp of desperation. There is venality in abundance here, and the general air of surrender, of hopelessness, is the most heartbreaking thing about it. I decide that I love my own tranquility too much to muck about in other people’s troubles. I am not going to move back to Lagos. Now way. I don’t care if there are a million untold stories, I don’t care if that, too, is a contribution to the air of surrender."

— from Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

[This is an eerily exact conveyance of my sentiments about the struggles in life in Pakistan and my decision to come back home to the US after reporting and writing from there for nearly two years.]

The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.
- Graham Greene, The End of the Affair (via observando)