Photograph by Helen Korpak


Ah, we’re an ungrateful race! When I look at my hand upon the window sill and think what pleasure I’ve had in it, how it’s touched silk and pottery and hot walls, laid itself flat upon wet grass or sun-baked, let the atlantic spurt through its fingers, snapped blue bells and daffodils, plucked ripe plums, never for a second since I was born ceased to tell me of hot and cold, damp or dryness, I’m amazed that I should use this wonderful composition of flesh and nerve to write the abuse of life. Yet that’s what we do. Come to think of it, literature is the record of our discontent.
—The Evening Party, Virginia Woolf

‘I have lived a lot alone, and so against one’s will one begins to reflect. But do I really shun everyone?’
—Fathers and Children, Ivan Turgenev

‘Just imagine,’ he began, ‘and it always happens like this. Today, as I was going downstairs to take a short walk before the evening party, I couldn’t help being surprised by the way my hands were dangling about in my cuffs, and they were doing it so gaily. Which promptly made me think: Just wait, something’s going to happen today. And it did, too.’
—Description of a Struggle, Franz Kafka

A hundred times I have wanted to kill myself, but I was still in love with life. This absurd weakness is perhaps one of our deadliest attachments: can anything be more foolish than to keep carrying a fardel and yet keep wanting to throw it to the ground? To hold one’s existence in horror, and yet cling to it? In a word, to caress the serpent that devours us, until at last it has eaten away our heart?
—Candide, Voltaire