Russell Hoban quotations used in SA4QE

This is a list of quotations from Russell Hoban's books used in the annual SA4QE fan event. Click on the novel title for details of that book, or on the "read more" link for details of who chose the quotation and where they left it.

'It is a strange and frightening thing to be a human being, to partake of the mystery and madness of human consciousness'

“The things that matter don't necessarily make sense.”

There is a continual telling and asking going on, a continuous conversation that is trying to happen between everything around us and us. All of it is without words, much of it is silent. Listen, look, let it come to you—the turning of the earth away from Father Sun to Mother Night, the rolling of our cloud-wreathed planet in the vast deeps of space.

One wakes up in the morning and puts on oneself. Everyone has experienced this: the self must be put on before any garment, and there is inevitably a pause as it were a caesura in the going forward of things before the self is put on. Why is this? It is because our mortal identity is not the primary one, not the profound, not the deep one. No, what wakes up from sleep is not Tiglath-Pileser or Peter Schlemiel or Pilgermann; it is simply raw undifferentiated being, brute being with nothing driving it but the forward motion imparted to it by the original explosion into being of the universe. For a fraction of a moment it is itself only; then must it with joy or terror put on that identity taken on with mortal birth, that identity that each morning is the cumulative total of its mortal days and nights, that self old or young, sick or well, brave or cowardly, beautiful or ugly, whole or mutilated, that is one’s lot.
From the book Pilgermann by Russell Hoban, 4th Feb 1925 – 13th Dec 2011.
Celebrating the anniversary of his birth in the annual SA4QE event.

Where are we? I said.


                In the black.


This isn't black, it's red.


         Sometimes the black is red.

Under the bed Death sat humming to itself while it cleaned its fingernails.  I never do get them really clean, it said.  It's a filthy job I've got but what's the use of complaining.  All the same I think I'd rather have been Youth or Spring or any number of things rather than what I am.  Not Youth, maybe.  That's a little wet and you'd hardly get to know people before they've moved on.  Spring's pretty much the same and it's a lady's job besides.  Action would be nice to be, I should think.

Elsewhere Action lay in his cell smoking and looking up at the ceiling.  What a career, he said.  I've spent more time in the nick than anywhere else.  Why couldn't I have been Death or something like that.  Steady work, security.

Holding on to the world is mostly an act of faith: you see a little bit of it front of you and you believe in the rest of it both in time and space.  If you're scheduled for a jump to Hubble on Tuesday you believe in you, in Hubble, in the jump, and in Tuesday.  Sometimes it was hard for me to believe all of it.

Everyone lives a life that is seen and a life that is unseen. Our dreams are part of our unseen life. We often forget our own dreams and we have no idea whatever of the dreams of others: last night the person next to you in the underground may have ridden naked on a lion or travelled under the sea to the lost city of Atlantis. Along with the dream life there is the life of ideas and half-ideas, of glimmerings and flashes and indescribable atmospheres of the mind. What we actually do in what is called the real world depends largely on how we live this unseen life in our inner world of words and images, songs and bits of poems, names and numbers and memories and dreams remembered and unremembered...

Manny Rat's housewarming was a great success. He had invited the cream of rat society, and all of them attended, twittering and squeaking with high spirits as they climbed the string ladder to the dolls' house. Grizzled old fighters and their plump, respectable wives touched whiskers with gentleman rats grown sleek by cunning and lithe young beauties of vaguely theatrical connection. Debutante rats and dashing young rats-about-town, all the golden youth of the dump, arrived in little laughing groups that achieved the effect of brilliance even in the dark, while doddering dowager rats came escorted by gaunt artistic rats with matted fur, burning eyes, and enormous appetites. Last up the ladder were a scattering of selected social climbers, followed by various hired bravos, obscure ruffians, and cheap hustlers whose good will was worth cultivating.

“It is a strange and frightening thing to be a human being, to partake of the mystery and madness of human consciousness.”


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