Reading List: Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield

How to start: Katherine Mansfield was born in 1888 and is considered to be New Zealand's "most internationally famous author" according to the website in her name. She sounds like an endearing person if only for having said this: "Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinion of others... Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth."

Favourite quotes: Alice was a mild creature in reality, but she had the most marvellous retorts ready for questions that she knew would never be put to her. The composing of them and the turning of them over and over in her mind comforted her just as much as if they'd been expressed. (Prelude)

But what I wanted to do was to behave in the most extraordinary fashion - like a clown. To start singing, with large extravagant gestures, to point out of the window and cry: "We are now passing, ladies and gentlemen, one of the sights for which notre Paris is justly famous," to jump out of the taxi while it was going, climb over the roof and drive in by another door; to hang out of the window and look for the hotel through the wrong end of a broken telescope, which was also a peculiarly ear-splitting trumpet. (Je ne parle pas français)

You know I had the mad idea that they were kissing in that quiet room - a long, comfortable kiss. One of those kisses that not only puts one's grief to bed, but nurses it and warms it and tucks it up and keeps it fast enfolded until it is sleeping sound. Ah! how good that is! (Je ne parle pas français)

What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street, you are overcome, suddenly, by a feeling of bliss - absolute bliss! - as though you'd suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks into every particle, into every finger and toe?...
Oh, is there no way you can express it without being "drunk and disorderly"? How idiotic civilization is! Why be given a body is you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle? (Bliss)

He was passionately fond of music; every spare penny he had went on books. He was always full of new ideas, schemes, plans. But nothing came of it all. The new fire blazed in Jonathan; you almost heard it roaring softly as he explained, described, and dilated on the new thing; but a moment later it had fallen in and there was nothing but ashes, and Jonathan went about with a look like hunger in his black eyes. (At the Bay)

"Well, my opinion is that you two people ought to part. You'll do no earthly good together. Indeed, it seems to me, it's the duty of either of to set the other free." What happens then? He - and she - agree. It is their conviction too. You are only saying what they have been thinking all last night. And away they go to act on your advice, immediately... And the next time you hear of them they are still together. You see - you've reckoned without the unknown quantity - which is their secret relation to each other - and that they can't disclose even if they want to. Thus far you may tell and no further. Oh, don't misunderstand me! It need not necessarily have anything to do with their sleeping together... But this brings me to a thought I've often half entertained. Which is that human beings, as we know them, don't choose each other at all. It is the owner, the second self inhabiting them, who makes the choice for his own particular purposes, and - this may sound absurdly far-fetched - it's the second self in the other which responds. Dimly - dimly - or so it has seemed to me - we realize this, at any rate to the extent that we realize the hopelessness of trying to escape. (A Married Man's Story)

There is a very unctuous and irritating English proverb to the effect that "every cloud has a silver lining." What comfort can it be to one steeped to the eyebrows in clouds to ponder over their linings, and what an unpleasant picture postcard seal it sets upon one's tragedy - turning it into a little ha' penny monstrosity with a moon in the left-hand corner like a vainglorious threepenny bit! Nevertheless, like most unctuous and irritating things, it is true. The lining woke me after my first night at the Pension Séguin and showed me over the feather bolster a room bright with sunlight as if every golden-haired baby in heaven were pelting the earth with buttercup posies. (Violet)