Quotes: Gene Wolfe, Shadow and Claw

If you have not read Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, you need to drop all other reading material sans your Bible and absorb this amazing series. It’s a captivating story, and one that moves like no other, and at the end you realize you were reading a theology textbook the whole time. Gotcha.


"It is only that I was thinking that had I known we might perish, I would not at all times have been so bold."

Those who wish no change may sit hugging their scruples forever. We must do everything. We must dare everything!"

For no man lives long when his dreams are dead.

The brown book I carry says there is nothing stranger than to explore a city wholly different from all those one knows, since to do so is to explore a second and unsuspected self. I have found a thing stranger: to explore such a city only after one has lived in it for some time without learning anything of it.

[T]here is a more profound savagery in men and women whose ancestors have lived in cities and towns since the dawn of humanity.

["]Even the powers of Heaven find it necessary to employ devils."

She was in that state of disease in which we no longer feel pity for the sick person, who has instead become an object of horror.

Horns of Urth, you fling notes to the sky,

Green and good, green and good.

Sing at my step; a sweeter glade have I.

Lift, oh, lift me to the fallen wood!

I found myself thinking how strange it would be if the New Sun, the Daystar himself, were to appear now as suddenly as he had appeared so long ago when he was called the Conciliator, appearing here because it was an inappropriate place and he had always preferred the least appropriate places, seeing these people through fresher eyes than we ever could; and if he, thus appearing here, were to decree by theurgy that all of them (none of whom I knew and none of whom knew me) should forever after live the roles they had taken up tonight,

The past cannot be found in the future where it is not—not until the metaphysical world, which is so much larger and so much slower than the physical world, completes its revolution and the New Sun comes.

As children we have no appreciation of scenery because, having not yet stored similar scenes in our imagination, with their attendant emotions and circumstances, we perceive it without psychic depth.

When I kill a man, I save the lives of all the living things he would have destroyed if he had continued to live himself, including, perhaps, many other men, and women and children.

When a man becomes an animal, he becomes a dangerous animal, and animals like that cannot be tolerated in more settled places, where there are farms and many people.

For clearly, instinct itself cannot have arisen out of nothing — the hawks that soared over our heads built their nests, doubtless, by instinct; yet there must have been a time in which nests were not built, and the first hawk to build one cannot have inherited its instinct to build from its parents, since they did not possess it. Nor could such an instinct have developed slowly, a thousand generations of hawks fetching one stick before some hawk fetched two; because neither one stick nor two could be of the slightest use to the nesting hawks.

Surely the Pancreator knows all mysteries. He spoke the long word that is our universe, and few things happen that are not a part of that word.

A demon she looked with her gaunt face and blazing eyes, for an angel is often only a demon who stands between us and our enemy.

the progress of science depends much less upon either theoretical considerations or systematic investigation than is commonly believed, but rather on the transmittal of reliable information, gained by chance or insight, from one set of men to their successors.

I did not believe in Oannes or fear him. But I knew, I thought, whence he came — I knew that there is an all-pervasive power in the universe of which every other is the shadow.

We are always aware of the hindrance of gravity when we climb stairs, but we take for granted the assistance it gives us when we descend.

Religion and science have always been matters of faith in something. It is the same something. You are yourself what you call a man of science, so I talk of science to you.

Men have numberless advantages over women and for that reason are rightly charged to protect them, yet there is one great one women may boast over men: No woman has ever had her organs of generation crushed between her own pelvis and the bony spine of one of these galloping brutes.

By each step in war the winner loses.

"Men of Urth, sailing between the stars, leaping from galaxy to galaxy, the masters of the daughters of the sun."

I clasped my heart’s companion to me, and felt myself clasped. I felt myself clasped, and clasped my heart’s companion to me.

When she finished, I told her quite truthfully that I had spent most of my life assisting at operations more terrible, and advised her to obtain trained assistance, at which she went away.

In the same way, we all have in us the ghosts of long-vanished things, of fallen cities and marvelous machines.

"Because all else is worse. Until the New Sun comes, we have but a choice of evils. All have been tried, and all have failed. Goods in common, the rule of the people… everything.

But everything had approached and even touched the Pancreator, because everything had dropped from his hand. Everything was a relic. All the world was a relic. I drew off my boots, that had traveled with me so far, and threw them into the waves that I might not walk shod on holy ground.



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