“A Gentleman in Moscow” Quotes

I recently read “A Gentleman In Moscow” by Amor Towles. Here’s the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the book.

“A king fortifies himself with a castle,” observed the Count, “a gentleman with a desk.” (12)

“The Countess expressed a measure of sympathy: “There is nothing pleasant to be said about losing,” she began, “and the Obolensky boy is a pill. But, Sasha, my dear, why on earth would you give him the satisfaction?” (14)

“Imaging what might happen if one’s circumstances were different was the only sure route to madness.” (20)

“A man must master his circumstances or otherwise be mastered by them.” (28)

“Yes, exile was as old as mankind. But the Russians were the first people to master the notion of sending a man into exile at home.”  (164)

“As early as the eighteen century, the Tsars stopped kicking their enemies out of the country, opting instead to send them to Siberia. Why? Because they had determined that to exile a man from Russia as God had exiled Adam from Eden was insufficient as punishment; for in another country, a man might immerse himself in his labors, build a house, raise a family. That is, he might begin his life anew.

But when you exile a man into his own country, there is no beginning anew. For the exile at home – whether he be sent to Siberia or subject to the Minus Six – the love for his country will not become vague or shrouded by the mists of time. In fact, because we have evolved as species to pay the utmost attention to that which is just beyond our reach, these men are likely to dwell on the splendors of Moscow more than any Muscovite who is at liberty to enjoy them.” (164)

“History is the business of identifying momentous events from the comfort of a high-back chair.” (173)

“Like the Freemasons, the Confederacy of the Humbled is a closeknit brotherhood whose members travel with no outward markings, but two know each other at a glance. For having fallen suddenly from grace, those in the Confederacy share a certain perspective. Knowing beauty, influence, fame, and privilege to be borrowed rather than bestowed, they are not easily impressed. They are not quick to envy or take offense. They certainly do not scour the papers in search of their own names. They remain committed to living among their peers, but they greet adulation with caution, ambition with sympathy, and condescension with an inward smile.” 

“Quite simply, the Count’s father had believed that while a man should attend closely to life, he should not attend too closely to the clock. A student of both the Stoics and Montagne, the Count’s father believed that our Creator had set aside the morning hours for industry. That is, if a man woke no later than six, engaged in a light repast, and then applied himself without interruption, by the hour of noon he should have accomplished a full day’s labor.

Thus in his father’s view, the toll of twelve was a moment of reckoning. When the noon bell sounded, the diligent man could take pride in having made good use of the morning and sit down to his lunch with a clear conscience. But when it sounded for the frivolous man – the man who had squandered his morning in  ed, or on breakfast with three papers, or on idle chatter in the sitting room – he had no choice but to ask for his Lord’s forgiveness.” (244-245)

“There is not a single country in the civilized world where less attention is paid to philosophy than in the United States.” (259)

“I suppose a room is the summation of all that has happened inside it.”

“Yes, I think it is,” agreed the Count. “And though I’m not exactly sure what has come of all the intermingling in this particular room, I am fairly certain that the world has been a better place because of it.” (331)

“One must make ends meet, or meet one’s end.” (333)

“I’ll tell you what is convenient. To sleep until noon an have someone bring you your breakfast on a tray. To cancel an appointment at the very last minute. To keep a carriage waiting at the door of one party, so that on a moment’s notice it can whisk you away to another. To sidestep marriage in your youth and put off having children altogether. These are the greatest of conveniences, Anushka – and at one time, I had them all. But in the end, it has been the inconvenience that have mattered to me most.” (352)

“Fifteen years younger, they would not have been asleep. Having stumbled back from a late dinner in the Arbat at which they had ordered two bottles of wine, they would now be in each other’s arms. Fifteen years older, they would be tossing and turning, getting up twice a night to visit the loo. But at forty? They had enough appetite to eat well, rough temperance to drink in moderation, and enough wisdom to celebrate the absence of their children by getting a good night’s sleep.” (429)

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