"On the way from Stockholm to Arvidsjaur, her plane touched down in Lycksele to drop off some of the passengers and pick up others. The flights cost five thousand kronor, as much as a ticket to New York. On top of that, she’d bought a pair of warm winter boots, a jacket and a blouse for another few thousand. Their first lovers’ weekend cost her dearly, but what did money matter when you were buying bliss?"
"I am the most hated person on our local internet. Most people must have seen my mug by now. Crossed out or smeared with blood, my face is spreading on social media at a pace of ten thousand hates an hour. Not even the most hopeless football game or bruising defeat at hockey can stir up so much hatred. Not even our president and the prime minister. The winner of the Eurovision song contest who sang about some sad elephant in a jolly zoo is Miss Popularity compared to me. Opposition politicians and cabinet members are secretly grateful to me—at last people have channelled their hatred elsewhere."
"Fear of homosexuals is never far from the surface. The few people who have supported me after my conviction must be very strong-minded. I do not think most people are equipped to associate with pariahs. They have a shadowy sense of how frail they themselves would be in the face of institutional opposition and stigmatization, how utterly cast down if they lost their jobs, if people they knew stopped serving them in shops or looked past them in the street. It is not hatred that turns the majority against the minority, but intuitive shame."
"Karen had died on the trip down from Ohio. The heart: something they had known about for a while. She’d even sing jokily about it during rare drunken moments: 'Oh, I’ve got a hole in my heart, / and that’s a mighty bad place to start!'"
"To me, it all smelled new. The boxes we’d moved our stuff in were still piled in the corners of the apartment, and the smell of fresh paint drifted like a cheerful tune through the rooms. Everything was clean. Most of the wardrobes and cupboards had already been assembled; odd screws and tools still lay around—an electric drill, a hammer, screwdrivers, extension leads, a scattering of wall plugs. In the kitchen, the pots, pans, and cutlery had already been stowed. We had even polished them before putting them away, and the rings on the stove were gleaming too."
"Though I brushed my teeth a number of times, I couldn’t lose the taste of brass. I’m almost certain that this was down to the cider I’d drunk the night before. All morning, I was reminded of ‘amber mole.’"
"He wanted to stand on a balcony and look out onto a grand boulevard. It was to be as massive as the one in Beijing or, even better, the one in Paris—a Romanian Champs-Élysées to replace the old boyars’ houses with their rotten roofs and unkempt gardens, wiping away the winding old alleyways where epidemics could break out at any moment."
"Urmila rearranged the animals. They were homely, unwelcoming; no one was buying. Should she group them by type: elephants next to rhinos next to giraffes?"
"At first I went on as normal. If someone misguidedly said, “Hey, there, Sydney,” I’d laugh. Later, when I couldn’t purge the name from my being, I’d gag “Syd ney,” the two syllables dead saliva, utterly meaningless, a joke."
"There was one other Arab onboard the ship to Marseille. His name was Faruq al-Azmeh, and the day after leaving port in Alexandria he approached Midhat at breakfast, with a plate of toast in one hand and a string of amber prayer beads in the other. He sat, tugged at the cuffs of his shirt, and started to describe without any introduction how he was returning from Damascus to resume his teaching post in the language department of the Sorbonne. He had left Paris at the outbreak of war but after the Miracle of the Marne was determined to return. He had grey eyes and a slightly rectangular head."
"I first encountered Dreux on an afternoon in autumn; the deer, precisely five years later. In Dreux’s case, I left the house one day under blue skies only to be caught in a sudden downpour. The narrow, winding streets of Belgrano were soon in full spate. Women clustered together on the sidewalks trying to establish the best places to cross; an old lady assailed the side of a bus with her umbrella when the driver refused to open the doors; and before long the shop owners, watching the deluge through their window displays, brought out the metal barriers they had armed themselves with after the previous flood."
"Ray Takahashi returned in August. By then we had put the whole thing behind us, or tried to, whatever concern or even guilt we might have felt replaced by that mixture of jubilation and despair brought on by the war’s end, for our boys were coming home and the war had changed them. Some held only absence where an arm or leg had once been; some were broken by experiences we could not see and never would."
"For we did love them, which is to say we watched them. Knew their habits and spoke gently and quietly about them. Loved them and did not ask for love in return."
"Every night before bed they watched the weather, yet when spring finally arrived it was a shock. One morning they woke to fog in the trees and robins on the lawn. By noon the snow was gone, the gutters glinting with runoff. The sunshine felt like a reward for surviving the winter. The crocuses beside the basement hatch poked through, and the daffodils around the birdbath. While Emily weeded in her coolie hat and kneepads, he scooped the thawed poop and bundled the fallen branches, picturing Ella and Sam hunting Easter eggs. It was too early to mulch, according to Emily, so he satisfied himself with taking down the feeders and vacuuming up the chaff, terrorizing Rufus with the hose. Though it was still cold enough that he had to wear a jacket, she opened the windows and aired out the house."
"Ladies and gentlemen, today Dr. Ha, though called upon, was unable to speak, so The Powers That Be have decreed that in the absence of the museum’s art adviser, Ms. Alwyn-Black, who is ill, I am to say something about this painting, The Peaceable Kingdom, which has newly arrived at the Harriet G. and Hubert J. Felton Gallery, on permanent loan from the cousin of an alumnus.”
"In the first few months after Charlie died, I began hearing from her much more frequently. This was even more surprising than it might have been, since Charlie wasn’t a good correspondent even when she was alive."
"When I think about my own death, the moment it happens is always the same. I’m wearing a plain, colored shirt and a matching pair of pants, cut from thin material that’s easy to pull on. It’s early in the morning and I am happy, I feel the same sense of contentment and satisfaction as I do at the first mouthfuls of my favorite meal. There are certain people around me, I don’t know them yet, but one day I will, and I’m in a certain place, lying on my hospital bed in my own room, nobody is dying around me, outside the day is slowly struggling to its feet like a rheumatic old man, I hear certain words from the mouths of my loved ones, a certain touch on my hand, and the kiss on my cheek feels like the home I have built around me like a shrine."
"Moments after arriving in Chile I slipped on the aircraft steps, and although my fall was broken by various items of hand luggage and the elderly couple in front of me, I still hit the tarmac with considerable force. I mostly felt embarrassed. A stewardess hurried over and took me to a first-aid post at the terminal, where a young doctor cleaned and bandaged the graze on my upper arm. Sorted. A mere ten minutes later I was in a taxi."