He was easily distracted, like a child with too many Christmas presents.

We were strapped into our seats, a field of strangers, in a silence like the silence of a congregation while the liturgy is read.

He raised his eyebrows, which were silver and grew unexpectedly coarsely and wildly from his forehead, like grasses in a rocky place.

However much he exhausted himself with trying to stimulate them, they were as unresponsive as a pair of armchairs.

There was a certain stiffness in his manner, a self-consciousness, like that of an actor about to deliver a too-famous line.

Yet the life without limitations has been exhausting, has been one long history of actual and emotional expense, like thirty years of living in one hotel after another.

They were like a terrain forever being hit by tornadoes; they lived in a state of permanent semi-devastation.

That sense of the self as a destiny and a doom that had hung like a pall over his whole life could stay, he now realised, behind him in Ireland.

[to remain a writer…] I suppose it’s a bit like marriage, he said. You build a whole structure on a period of intensity that’s never repeated. It’s the basis of your faith and sometimes you doubt it, but you never renounce it because too much of your life stands on that ground. Though the temptation can be extreme, he added, as the young waitress glided past our table.

The interesting ones are like islands, he said: you don’t bump into them on the street or at a party, you have to know where they are and go to them by arrangement.

Writers need to hide in bourgeois life like ticks need to hide in an animal’s fur: the deeper they’re buried the better.

The women were of a kind I had never known before in my life: nearly all of them worked in a profession – doctors, lawyers, accountants – and most of them had a large number of children, five or six apiece, whose lives they supervised with amazing diligence and energy, running their families like successful corporations on top of the demanding careers most of them already had. Not only that, these women were as well groomed and well turned out as could be: they went to the gym every day, ran marathons for charity, were as thin and wiry as greyhounds and always wore the most expensive, elegant clothes, though their sinewy muscular bodies were often curiously sexless. They went to church, baked the cakes for the school fete, chaired the debating society, held dinner parties at which six courses were served, read all the latest novels, attended concerts, played tennis and volleyball at the weekends.

In fact it was the first time he had taken his children anywhere on his own. He remembered that in the car, driving out of Athens and into the hills, he had kept glancing at them on the back seat in the rear-view mirror, feeling as wrongful as if he were kidnapping them. He expected them, at any minute, to discover his crime and demand their immediate return to Athens and their mother, but they did not: in fact, they made no comment on the situation at all, not during all the long hours of a journey in which Paniotis felt himself to be getting further and further away from everything trusted and known, everything familiar, and most of all from the whole security of the home he had made with his wife, which of course no longer even existed.

[I] thought of the strange transitions from enchantment to disenchantment and back again that moved through human affairs like cloudbanks, sometimes portentous and grey and sometimes mere distant inscrutable shapes that blotted out the sun for a while and then just as carelessly revealed it again.

I looked and saw a ruined temple in the distance like a little broken diadem on the hilltop.

He had turned around, like a climber turns around and looks back down the mountain, reviewing the path he has travelled, no longer immersed in the ascent. – Outline, Rachel Cusk