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When We Were Orphans

For the truth is, the longer I had been in Shanghai, the more I had come to despise the so-called leaders of this community. Almost every day my investigations had revealed yet another piece of negligence, corruption or worse on their part down the years. And yet in all the days since my arrival, I had not come across one instance of honest shame, a single acknowledgement that were it not for the prevarications, the short-sightedness, often the downright dishonesty of those left in charge, the situation would never have reached its present level of crisis. At one point that morning, I found myself at the Shanghai Club, meeting with three eminent members of the “elite.” And faced anew with their hollow pomposity, their continued denial of their own culpability in the whole sorry affair, I felt an exhilaration at the prospect of ridding my life of such people once and for all. Indeed, at such moments, I felt an utter certainty that I had come to the right decision; that the assumption shared by virtually everyone here—that it was somehow my sole responsibility to resolve the crisis—was not only unfounded, but worthy of the highest contempt. I pictured the astonishment that would soon appear on these same faces at the news of my departure—the outrage and panic that would rapidly follow—and I will admit such thoughts brought me much satisfaction.

Kazuo Ishiguro “When We Were Orphans”

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The Buried Giant

You would have searched a long time for the sort of winding lane or tranquil meadow for which England later became celebrated. There were instead miles of desolate, uncultivated land; here and there rough-hewn paths over craggy hills or bleak moorland. Most of the roads left by the Romans would by then have become broken or overgrown, often fading into wilderness. Icy fogs hung over rivers and marshes, serving all too well the ogres that were then still native to this land. The people who lived nearby—one wonders what desperation led them to settle in such gloomy spots—might well have feared these creatures, whose panting breaths could be heard long before their deformed figures emerged from the mist. But such monsters were not cause for astonishment. People then would have regarded them as everyday hazards, and in those days there was so much else to worry about. How to get food out of the hard ground; how not to run out of firewood; how to stop the sickness that could kill a dozen pigs in a single day and produce green rashes on the cheeks of children.

From Kazuo Ishiguro “The Buried Giant”

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An Artist of the Floating World

‘I have learnt many things over these past years.  I have learnt much in contemplating the world of pleasure, and recognising its fragile beauty.  But I now feel it is time for me to progress to other things.  Sensei, it is my belief that in such troubled times as these, artists must learn to value something more tangible than those pleasurable things that disappear with the morning light.  It is not necessary that artists always occupy a decadent and enclosed world.  My conscience, Sensei, tells me I cannot remain forever an artist of the floating world.’

from Kazuo Ishiguro “An Artist of the Floating World”

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Jane Eyre

Reader, it was on Monday night—near midnight—that I too had received the mysterious summons: those were the very words by which I replied to it. I listened to Mr. Rochester’s narrative, but made no disclosure in return. The coincidence
struck me as too awful and inexplicable to be communicated or discussed. If I told anything, my tale would be such as must necessarily make a profound impression on the mind of my hearer: and that mind, yet from its sufferings too prone to gloom, needed not the deeper shade of the supernatural. I kept these things then, and pondered them in my heart.
From Charlotte Brontë “Jane Eyre”

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Brussels Park, Belgium in December, 2010.