I've always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.
‘The secret to winning a woman is calculated neglect.'
The loneliest sound in the world is other people making love.
Kolya was a braggart, a know-it-all, a Jew-baiting Cossack, but his confidence was so pure and complete it no longer seemed like arrogance, just the mark of a man who had accepted his own heroic destiny.
‘There's a difference between ignoring a woman and enticing her. You entice her with mystery. She wants you to come after her, but you keep circling. It's the same with sex. Amateurs yank down their pants and shove it in there like they're trying to spear a fish. But the man with talent knows it's all about teasing, circling, coming close, and moving away.'
This is all very strange, I thought. I am in the middle of a battle and I am aware of my own thoughts, I am worried about how stupid I look with a knife in my hand while everyone else came to fight with rifles and machine guns. I am aware that I am aware. Even now, with bullets buzzing through the air like angry hornets, I cannot escape the chatter of my brain.
Heroes and fast sleepers, then, can switch off their thoughts when necessary. Cowards and insomniacs, my people, are plagued by babble on the brain.
‘Talent must be a fanatical mistress. She's beautiful; when you're with her, people watch you, they notice. But she bangs on your door at odd hours, and she disappears for long stretches, and she has no patience for the rest of your existence: your wife, your children, your friends. She is the most thrilling evening of your week, but some day she will leave you for good. One night, after she's been gone for years, you will see her on the arm of a younger man, and she will pretend not to recognize you.'
‘What do you write when you write in your journal?' ‘Depends on the day. Sometimes just notes on what I've seen. Sometimes I hear someone say something, a line or two, and I like the way it sounds.'
Real terror – the genuine belief that your life is about to end violently – erases everything but itself from the brain.
There is a place beyond hunger, beyond fatigue, where time no longer seems to move and the body's misery no longer seems fully your own.