Quotes from At Swim, Two Boys – Jamie O’Neill

“How did Doyler do this? He could make Jim so angry with himself, so ashamed. The next minute he was all alive, like a spark was inside, like the full of him was electric. How did Doyler do this to him? He really didn’t know.” – 274

“Yes there is something altogether tantalizing about truth. One burnt to tell it, for it to be known. Dreaded it, too, that someone else should say it, their saying making it true, the truth true, untolerable.” -278

“How wonderful it was this coming to know, certain of the knowing to come. Every word was weighted and every glance an inquiry. Each gesture gave just that little too much away.” – 327

“MacMurrough recalled his own discovery of touch, the willing of it, its exploration: so very different from the being touched, the receiving into one’s seclusion the touch of another, and so maddeningly sensual.” – 376

“Let the people be classified into sexes, of which there shall be two, male and female. The criterion shall be generative function, though please to note, this function is ideal and not actual: the prepubescent, the celibate, the emasculate, the nulliparous, the non-generative for whatever reason, shall yet be classified by sex. They shall be male or female. Female or male shall they be, though the greater shall be male.” – 391

“He rested his chin in the crook of his hands, watchful and listening. The fire spat at the hearthrug. Long time ago he would used curl on that rug, a ball of pinky heat, while the furniture winked and tall shadows peopled the walls. Then, like now, though he had not then the words to describe it, he was aware of his detachment, of his being a witness to the moment, witness not participant. Now, in a lazy way, he was pleased to remain so, these last few hours, a time yet.” – 438

“Oh sure he knew that, he had no doubt about that, all along he never doubted, leastways he believed he knew, save he couldn’t see it back last summer, he was scared then, but he wasn’t scared now, he had longed for it to be this way, and how could it be any different, it was never a case of whether, only of when or who first, weren’t they made to be this way–” – 441

“He bundled himself small the close to be held. He felt a great emulsive flow of love, all the truer for his needing no arm to hold him. The parts had shifted. He felt he marvel of his will that had brought Doyler to him that night. Doyler had not understood about the island. but that would come. Doyler had nothing to fear. Jim would swim him to the Muglins, he would swim him home again. There was no end to the swimming they would do.” – 444

“MacMurrough said, ‘Aunt Eva, you sting me and provoke me. I do not protest. I am too conscious of your pain. But you are misinformed, I find, of the gutter.’
‘And what will you pretend to teach me?’
‘Perhaps that, gutter or mountain, the heart breaks as surely.’
‘Perhaps it is. But it is proud too. There is a boy I love and his soul too shines in his face. Though it never may be, I am proud to love him.’” – 450

“It truly was the morning of the world. The sky blued above to shade and silver in the sea.” – 457

“I’m just thinking that would be pleasant. To be reading, say, out of a book, and you to come up and touch me–my neck, say, or my knee–and I’d carry on reading, i might let a smile, no more, wouldn’t lose my place on the page. It would be pleasant to come to that. We’d come so close, do you see, that I wouldn’t be surprised out of myself every time you touched.” – 509

“He was so sure everything was right and square. I don’t know how but I loved him that minute. He frightened me a bit too. He’ll be a great leader of men one day.” – 522

“It was true what Jim said, this wasn’t the end but the beginning. But the wars would end one day and Jim would come there then, to the island they would share. One day surely the wars would end, and Jim would come home, if only to lie broken in MacMurrough’s arms, he would come to his island home. And McMurrough would have it built for him, brick by brick, washed by the rain and the reckless sea. In the living stream they’d swim a season. For maybe it was true that no man is an island: but he believed that two very well might be.” – 560


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