Last modified on 22 August 2014, at 17:58

David Mitchell (author)

History admits no rules; only outcomes.

David Mitchell (born 12 January 1969) is an award-winning British writer of postmodernist novels. He has lived for many years in Japan, and has set much of his fiction in the Far East.

QuotesEdit

As long as you can Houdini your way out of the Sisyphean constraints then originality happens.
  • What is this thing, "imagination?" A muscle that can be "forced" or "stretched"? Or something immune to the ethos of ganbaru [grit it out, or strive for one's best]? Like the relativist's view of light, it is both wave and particle, depending on what you want it to be. The verb "to imagine" is both active and passive, as in "Steve imagined his future," and "Such a future was never imagined." So, I work on my novel by imagining the world of 18th-century Nagasaki and its people and their fears and desires, as an act of will, and a lot of will is involved, believe me. However, I could ganbaru until I'm blue in the face. If my imagination doesn't work "passively" or even "intransitively," at its own behest rather than mine, and come up with cliche-demolishing twists of phrase and turns of plot and happy accidents and unexpected reactions from characters, then the book will be sterile. Well-written with luck, and even intelligent, but sterile. (...) Imagination is what makes art fertile.
  • Right now I’m working on a book set in the thirty years on either side of 2010, but I shouldn’t give too many details or the next thing you know it’s on Wikipedia and if I change my mind and decide to recast King Lear in a pond of frogs and toads I’ll just give a hardworking Wikipedian an extra headache.
  • Perhaps the best answer is that the writer that I am has been shaped by the stammering kid that I was, and that although my stammer didn’t make me write, it did, in part, inform and influence the writer I became. It’s true that stammerers can become more adept at sentence construction. Synonyms aren’t always neatly interchangeable. Sometimes choosing word B over word A requires you to construct a different sentence to house it—and quickly, too, before your listener smells the stammering rat.
    • Paris Review

Ghostwritten (1999)Edit

  • I have always preferred maps to books. They don't answer you back.
    • "Okinawa"
  • The most malicious god is the god of the counted chicken.
    • "Clear Island"
  • Lunatics are writers whose works write them.
    • "Night Train"

number9dream (2001)Edit

  • Whoever dies with the most stuff wins.
    • Part 5
  • The body is the outermost layer of the mind.
    • Part 6
  • Courage is the highest quality for a soldier, but technology is a fine substitute.
    • Part 6

Cloud Atlas (2004)Edit

See also: Cloud Atlas (film)
Page-numbers refer to the 2004 Sceptre edition.
  • Peace, though beloved of our Lord, is a cardinal virtue only if your neighbors share your conscience.
    • "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 23 (Nook Edition)
  • As many truths as men. Ocassionally, I glimpse a truer Truth, hiding in imperfect simulacrums of itself, but as I approach, it bestirs itself & moves deeper into the thorny swamp of dissent.
    • "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 24 (Nook Edition)
  • "To fool a judge, feign fascination, but to bamboozle the whole court, feign boredom."
    • "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 41 (Nook Edition)
  • "The better organized the state, the duller its humanity."
    • "Letters from Zedelghem", p. 64 (Nook Edition)
  • That love loves fidelity [is] a myth woven by men from their insecurities.
    • "Letters from Zedelghem", p. 72 (Nook Edition)
  • Whoever opined "Money can't buy you happiness" obviously had far too much of the stuff.
    • "Letters from Zedelghem", p. 78 (Nook Edition)
  • Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.
    • "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 155 (Nook Edition)
  • "Your version of the truth is the only one that matters."
    "Truth is singular. Its 'versions' are mistruths."
    • "An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 199 (Nook Edition)
  • "Try this for deviancy: fabricants are mirrors held up to purebloods' consciences; what purebloods see reflected there sickens them. So they blame you for holding up the mirror."
    I hid my shock by asking when purebloods might blame themselves.
    Mephi replied, "History suggests, not until they are made to."
    • "An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 168 (Nook Edition)
  • If losers can xploit [sic] what their adversaries teach them, yes, losers can become winners in the long time.
    • "An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 202 (Nook Edition)
  • Under the Enrichment Laws, consumers have to spend a fixed quota of dollars each month, depending on their strata. Hoarding is an anti-corpocratic crime.
    • "An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 237
  • Yay, Old Uns’ Smart mastered sicks, miles, seeds an' made miracles ord’nary, but it din’t master one thing, nay, a hunger in the hearts o' humans, yay, a hunger for more.
    • "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 286
  • Human hunger birthed the Civ'lize, but human hunger killed it too.
    • "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 286
  • Times are you say a person's b'liefs ain't true, they think you're sayin' their lifes ain't true an' their truth ain't true.
    • "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 286
  • But ain't dyin' terrorsome cold if there ain't nothin' after?
    Yay--she sort o' laughed but not smilin', nay--our truth is terrorsome cold.
    • "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 269 (Nook edition)
  • List'n, savages an Civ'lizeds ain't divvied by tribes or b'liefs or mountain ranges, nay, ev'ry human is both, yay. Old Uns'd got the Smart o' gods but the savagery o' jackals, an' that's what tripped the Fall.
    • "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", p. 269 (Nook edition)
  • Travel far enough, you meet yourself.
    • "An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 282 (Nook Edition)
  • In a cycle as old as tribalism, ignorance of the Other engenders fear; fear engenders hatred; hatred engenders violence; violence engenders further violence until the only "rights," the only law, are whatever is willed by the most powerful.
    • "An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 303 (Nook Edition)
  • How lazily "xperts" [sic] dismiss what they fail to understand.
    • "An Orison of Sonmi~451", p. 305 (Nook Edition)
  • "But it's been done a hundred times before!" -- As if there could be anything not done a hundred thousand times between Aristophanes and Andrew Void Webber! As if Art is the What, not the How!
    • "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 312 (Nook edition)
  • We--by whom I mean anyone over sixty--commit two offenses just bu existing. One is Lack of Velocity. We drive too slowly, walk to slowly, talk too slowly. The world will do business with dictators, perverts, and drugs barons of all stripes, but being slowed down it cannot abide. Our second offence is being Everyman's memento mori. The world can only get comfy in shiny-eyed denial if we are out of sight.
    • "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 315 (Nook edition)
  • What wouldn't I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable? To possess, as it were, an atlas of clouds.
    • "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish", p. 389
  • The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming + ever more problematic to access + reconstruct: in contrast, the virtual past is malleable, ever-brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/expose as fraudulent. The present presses the virtual past into its own service, to lend credence to its mythologies + legitimacy to the imposition of will.
    • "Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 340 (Nook edition)
  • Whoever said money can't buy you happiness... obviously didn't have enough of the stuff. (cf. "Letters from Zedelghem", p. 78 (Nook Edition))
    • "Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery", p. 342 (Nook edition)
  • Another war is always coming, Robert. They are never properly extinguished. What sparks war? The will to power, the backbone of human nature. The threat of violence, the fear of violence, or actual violence, is the instrument of this dreadful will… The nation state is merely human nature inflated to monstrous proportions. QED, nations are entities whose laws are written by violence. Thus it ever was, so ever shall it be.
    • "Letters from Zedelghem", p. 462
  • Faith, the least exclusive club on Earth, has the craftiest doorman. Every time I've stepped through its wide-open doorway,I find myself stepping out on the street again.
    • "Letters from Zedelghem", p. 75
  • Diplomacy… mops up war’s spillages; legitimizes its outcomes; gives the strong state the means to impose its will on a weaker one, while saving its fleets and battalions for weightier opponents.
    • "Letters from Zedelghem", p. 462
  • Science devises ever bloodier means of war until humanity’s powers of destruction overcome our powers of creation and our civilisation drives itself to extinction.
    • "Letters from Zedelghem", p. 462
  • Books don't offer real escape but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.
    • "Letters from Zedelghem"
  • This rapacity, yes, powers, our Progress; for ends infernal or divine I know not. Nor do you know, sir. Nor do I overly care. I feel only gratitude that my Maker cast me on the winning side.
    • "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 422 (Nook edition)
  • History admits no rules, only outcomes. What precipitates outcomes? Vicious acts & virtuous acts. What precipitates acts? Belief.
    • "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 528
  • One fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself… In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.
    • "The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing", p. 528
  • Scholars discern motions in history & formulate these motions into rules that govern the rises & falls of civilizations. My belief runs contrary, however. To wit: history admits no rules; only outcomes.
    What precipitates outcomes? Vicious acts & virtuous acts.
    What precipitates acts? Belief.
    Belief is both prize & battlefield, within the mind & in the mind’s mirror, the world.
    If we believe humanity is a ladder of tribes, a colosseum of confrontation, exploitation & bestiality, such a humanity is surely brought into being, & history’s Horroxes, Boer-haaves & Gooses shall prevail. You & I, the moneyed, the privileged, the fortunate, shall not fare so badly in this world, provided our luck holds. What of it if our consciences itch? Why undermine the dominance of our race, our gunships, our heritage & our legacy? Why fight the “natural” (oh, weaselly word!) order of things?
    Why? Because of this: — one fine day, a purely predatory world shall consume itself. Yes, the Devil shall take the hindmost until the foremost is the hindmost. In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.
    Is this the doom written within our nature?
    If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe divers races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. Torturous advances won over generations can be lost by a single stroke of a myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword.
    • The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, Monday, 13th January —, p. 528
  • A life spent shaping a world I want Jackson to inherit, not one I fear Jackson shall inherit, this strikes me as a life worth the living.
    • The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, Monday, 13th January —, p. 528
  • I hear my father-in-law's response..."Naïve, dreaming Adam. He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!" Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?
    • The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, Monday, 13th January —, p. 528-529.
  • Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an' tho' a cloud's shape nor hue nor size don't stay the same, it's still a cloud an' so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud's blowed from or who the soul'll be 'morrow? Only Sonmi the east an' the compass an' the atlas, yay, only the atlas o' clouds.
    • "Sloosha's Crossin' an Ev'rythin' After", p. 308

External linksEdit

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