a murder of quality

Detail of the cover of the Penguin edition of 'A Murder of Quality' (le Carré 1962)

The cold was crisp and sharp like flint. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 1)
    For a moment Fielding thought of Hecht pasturing in that thick body: it was a scene redolent of Lautrec. Yes, that was it! (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 1)
    It was from us they learnt the secret of life: that we grow old without growing wise. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 1)
    I used to think it was clever to confuse comedy with tragedy. Now I wish I could distinguish them. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 1)
    Being alone was like being tired, but unable to sleep. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 1)
    Nonconformity is the most conservative of habits. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 2)
    ‘The value of intelligence depends on its breeding.’ That was John Landsbury’s favourite dictum. Until you know the pedigree of the information you cannot evaluate a report. Yes, that was what he used to say: ‘We are not democratic. We close the door on intelligence without parentage.’ (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 2)
    The only time they notice you is when you’re not there. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 3)
    Smiley quickly noticed that he had one quality rare among small men: the quality of openness. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 3)
    […] but Fielding seemed so dazzled by the footlights that he was indifferent to the audience behind them. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 5)
    The whiteness of the new snow lit the very sky itself; the whole Abbey was so sharply visible against it that even the mutilated images of saints were clear in every sad detail of their defacement, wretched figures, their purpose lost, with no eyes to see the changing world. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 6)
    Built in an age when cactus was the most fashionable of plants and bamboo its indispensable companion, the lounge was conceived as the architectural image of a jungle clearing. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 7)
    That’s where your village idiots come from. They call it the Devil’s Mark, I call it incest. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 7)
    Somehow mundy managed to imply that the Black Death was a fairly recent disaster in those parts, if not actually within living memory. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 8)
    […]; once in the war he had been described by his superiors as possessing the cunning of Satan and the conscience of a virgin, which seemed to him not wholly unjust. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 9)
    Smiley himself was one of those solitaries who seem to have come into the world fully educated at age eighteen. Obscurity was his nature, as wll as his profession. The byways of espionage are not populatedby the brash and colourful adventurers of fiction. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 7)
    He said this as if ‘good’ were an absolute quality with which he was familiar. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 9)
    Her very ugliness, her size and voice, coupled with the sophisticated malice of her conversation, gave her the dangerous quality of command. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 10)
    It had been one of Smiley’s cardinal principles in research, whether among the incunabula of an obscure poet or the laboriously gathered fragments of intelligence, not to proceed beyond the evidence. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 11)
    Rigby was right, it was impossible to know. You had to be ill, you had to be sick to understand, you had to be there in the sanatorium, not for weeks, but for years, had to be one in the line of white beds, to know the smell of their food and the greed in their eyes. You had to hear it abd see it, to be part of it, to know their rules and recognize their transgressions. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 11)
    ‘You don’t want anything brilliant,’ said Harriman. ‘You want a good, steady type. I’d take a bitch if I were you.’ (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 12)
    […] pondering on the strange byways of the military mind. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 12)
    The business of assisting refugees has been suitably relegated to the south of the river, to one of those untended squares in Kennington which are part of London’s architectural schizophrenia. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 14)
    […] the rare gift of speaking to children as if they were human beings. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 14)
    […] the rare gift of contempt for what is urgent. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 14)
    ‘Black tie?’ asked Fielding, his pen poised, and some imp made Smiley reply:
    ‘I usually do, but it doesn’t matter.’ There was a moment’s silence. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 16)
    ‘Damned odd business. Experiments never pay, do they? You can’t experiment with tradition.’
    ‘No. No, indeed.’
    ‘That’s the trouble today. like Africa. Nobody seems to understand you can’t build society overnight. It takes centuries to make a gentleman.’ (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 17)
    “You’ll kill me in the long nights!” She’d scream it out—it was the words that got her, the long nights, she liked the sound of them the way an actor does, and she’d build a whole story round them. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 19)
    So many of us wait patiently for our audience to die. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 20)
    ‘That is the peace I mean. Not to exist in anyone’s mind, but my own; to be a secular monk, safe and forgotten.’ (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 20)
    […] ‘we just don’t know what people are like, we can never tell; there isn’t any truth about human beings, no formula that meets each one of us. […]‘ (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 20)
    He had to reassure himself, you see, like a child being hateful to its parents. (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 20)
    ‘[…] The world sees them as showmen, fantasists, liars, as sensualists perhaps, not for what they are: the living dead.’ (Le Carré 1962: chpt. 20)

LE CARRÉ, JOHN [aka CORNWELL, DAVID JOHN MOORE]. 1962. A murder of quality. London: Gollancz.
  • Bryan Alexander Friday, 30th December 2011 at 03:04

    More beautiful prose.

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