Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo

by

George Saunders

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Lincoln in the Bardo Quotes

Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Lincoln in the Bardo published in 2018.
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Chapter 1 Quotes

And that is how we lived. We became friends. Dear friends. That was all. And yet that was so much. We laughed together, made decisions about the household […]. To see her brighten when I came in, find her leaning into me as we discussed some household matter, improved my lot in many ways I cannot adequately explain. I had been happy, happy enough, but now I often found myself uttering a spontaneous prayer that went, simply: She is here, still here. It was as if a rushing river had routed itself through my house, which was pervaded now by a freshwater scent and the awareness of something lavish, natural, and breathtaking always moving nearby.

Related Characters: Hans Vollman (speaker), Anna
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Feeling nauseous at the quantity of blood and its sudden percussive redness against the whiteness of the tub, I settled myself woozily down on the floor, at which time I—well, it is a little embarrassing, but let me just say it: I changed my mind. Only then (nearly out the door, so to speak) did I realize how unspeakably beautiful all of this was, how precisely engineered for our pleasure, and saw that I was on the brink of squandering a wondrous gift, the gift of being allowed, every day, to wander this vast sensual paradise, this grand marketplace lovingly stocked with every sublime thing: swarms of insects dancing in slant-rays of August sun; a trio of black horses standing hock-deep and head-to-head in a field of snow; a waft of beef broth arriving breeze-borne from an orange-hued window on a child autumn—

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Will I follow my predilection? I will! With gusto! Having come so close to losing everything, I am freed now of all fear, hesitation, and timidity, and, once revived, intend to devoutly wander the earth, imbibing, smelling, sampling, loving whomever I please; touching, tasting, standing very still among the beautiful things of this world […].

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

I want ed so much to hold a dear Babe.

I know very wel I do not look as prety as I onseh. And over time, I admit, I have come to know serten words I did not formerly

Fuk cok shit reem ravage assfuk

[…] I did not get any. Thing.

Was gone too soon

To get

Only forteen.

Yrs of aje


Plese do come again sir it has been a pleasure to make your

But fuk yr anshient frends (do not bring them agin) who kome to ogle and mok me and ask me to swindle no that is not the werd slender slander that wich I am doing. Wich is no more than what they are doing. Is it not so? What I am doing, if I only cary on fathefully, will, I am sure, bring about that longed-for return to

Green grass kind looks.

Related Symbols: The Iron Fence
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

It has done me good.

I believe it has.

It is secret. A bit of secret weakness, that shores me up; in shoring me up, it makes it more likely that I shall do my duty in other matters; it hastens the end of this period of weakness; it harms no one; therefore, it is not wrong, and I shall take away from here this resolve: I may return as often as I like, telling no one, accepting whatever help it may bring me, until it helps me no more.

Related Characters: Abraham Lincoln (speaker), Willie Lincoln
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 29 Quotes

The lead angel took my face into her hands as her wing swished back and forth, putting me in mind of a horse’s tail as that animal feeds.

Are you thriving here, Reverend? she said, wing extended lazily above her. Is He whom you served in life present here?

I—I believe He is, I said.

He is, of course, everywhere, she said. But does not like to see you lingering here. Among such low companions.

Her beauty was considerable and increasing by the second. I saw I must end our interview or risk disaster.

Please go, I said. I do not—I do not require you today.

But soon, I think? She said.

Her beauty swelled beyond description.

And I burst into tears.

Related Characters: The Reverend Everly Thomas (speaker)
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

We are here by grace […]. Our ability to abide by far from assured. Therefore, we must conserve our strength, restricting our activities to only those which directly serve our central purpose. We would not wish, through profligate activity, to appear ungrateful for the mysterious blessing of our continued abiding. […] We must look out for ourselves […]. And, by doing so, we protect the boy as well. He must hear nothing of this rumor, which would only serve to raise his hopes. As we know, only utter hopelessness will lead him to do what he must. Therefore, not a word. Are we in agreement?

Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 45-46 Quotes

Why will it not work. What magic word made it work. Who is the keeper of that word. What did it profit Him to switch this one off. What a contraption it is. How did it ever run. What spark ran it. Grand little machine. Set up just so. Receiving the spark, it jumped to life.

What put out that spark? What a sin it would be. Who would dare. Ruin such a marvel. Hence is murder anathema. God forbid I should ever commit such a grievous

Related Characters: Abraham Lincoln (speaker), Hans Vollman, Willie Lincoln
Page Number: 150
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 48 Quotes

Everything nonsense now. Those mourners came up. Hands extended. Sons intact. Wearing on their faces enforced sadness-masks to hide any sign of their happiness, which—which went on. They could not hide how alive they yet were with it, with their happiness at the potential of their still-living sons. Until lately I was one of them. Strolling whistling through the slaughterhouse, averting my eyes from the carnage, able to laugh and dream and hope because it had not yet happened to me.

Related Characters: Abraham Lincoln (speaker), Hans Vollman, Willie Lincoln
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 54-55 Quotes

Upon Mr. Bevins’s exit, I was immediately filled with longing for him and his associated phenomena, a longing that rivaled the longing I had felt for my parents when I first left their home for my apprenticeship in Baltimore—a considerable longing indeed.

Such had been the intensity of our co-habitation.

I would never fail to fully see him again: dear Mr. Bevins!

[…] We would be infused with some trace of one another for forevermore.

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III, Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 61 Quotes

I have been here since and have, as instructed, refrained from speaking of any of this, to anyone.

What would be the point? For any of us here, it is too late for any alteration of course. All is done. We are shades, immaterial, and since that judgment pertains to what we did (or did not do) in that previous (material) realm, correction is now forever beyond our means. Our work there is finished; we only await payment.

Related Characters: The Reverend Everly Thomas (speaker), Hans Vollman, Roger Bevins III
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 66 Quotes

Of course, there was always a moment, just as an order was given, when a small, resistant voice would make itself known in the back of my mind. Then the necessary job was to ignore that voice. It was not a defiant or angry voice, particularly, just that little human voice, saying, you know: I wish to do what I wish to do, and not what you are telling me to do.

And I must say, that voice was never quite silenced.

Although it did grow rather quiet over the years.

Related Characters: Thomas Havens (speaker), Willie Lincoln, Elson Farwell
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 74 Quotes

I was in error when I saw him as fixed and stable and thought I would have him forever. He was never fixed, nor stable, but always just a passing temporary energy-burst. I had reason to know this. Had he not looked this way at birth, that way at four, another way at seven, been made entirely anew at nine? He had never stayed the same, even instant to instant.

He came out of nothingness, took form, was loved, was always bound to return to nothingness.

Related Characters: Abraham Lincoln (speaker), Hans Vollman, Willie Lincoln
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 80-81 Quotes

And though that mass co-habitation had jarred much loose from me (a nagging, hazy mental cloud of details from my life now hung about me: names, faces, mysterious foyers, the smells of long-ago meals; carpet patterns from I knew not what house, distinctive pieces of cutlery, a toy horse with one ear missing, the realization that my wife’s name had been Emily), it had not delivered the essential truth I sought, as to why I had been damned. I halted on the trail, lagging behind, desperate to bring that cloud into focus and recall who I had been, and what evil I had done, but was not successful in this, and then had to hurry to catch my friends up.

Related Characters: The Reverend Everly Thomas (speaker), Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 265
Explanation and Analysis:

Whatever my sin, it must, I felt (I prayed), be small, compared to the sins of these. And yet, I was of their ilk. Was I not? When I went, it seemed, it would be to join them.

As I had many times preached, our Lord is a fearsome Lord, and mysterious, and will not be predicted, but judges as He sees fit, and we are but as lambs to Him, whom He regards with neither affection or malice; some go to the slaughter, while others are released to the meadow, by His whim, according to a standard we are too lowly to discern.

It is only for us to accept; accept His judgment, and our punishment.

But, as applied to me, this teaching did not satisfy.

And oh, I was sick, sick at heart.

Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:

We were as we were! the bass lisper barked. How could we have been otherwise? Or, being that way, have done otherwise? We were that way, at that time, and had been led to that place, not by any innate evil in ourselves, but by the state of our cognition and our experience up until that moment.

By Fate, by Destiny, said the Vermonter.

By the fact that time runs in only one direction, and we are borne along by it, influenced precisely as we are, to do just the things that we do, the bass lisper said.

And then are cruelly punished for it, said the woman.

Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 92 Quotes

Flying out window, allowed, allowed (the entire laughing party of guests happily joining behind me, urging me to please, yes, fly away) (saying oh, he feels much better now, he does not seem sick at all!)!

Whatever that former fellow (willie) had, must now be given back (is given back gladly) as it never was mine (never his) and therefore is not being taken away, not at all!

As I (who was of willie but is no longer (merely) of willie) return

To such beauty.

Related Characters: Willie Lincoln (speaker)
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 93-94 Quotes

He must (we must, we felt) do all we could, in light of the many soldiers lying dead and wounded, in open fields, all across the land, weeds violating their torsos, eyeballs pecked out or dissolving, lips hideously retracted, rain-soaked/blood-soaked/snow-crusted letters scattered about them, to ensure that we did not, as we trod that difficult path we were now well upon, blunder, blunder further (we had blundered so badly already) and, in so blundering, ruin more, more of these boys, each of whom was once dear to someone.

Ruinmore, ruinmore, we felt, must endeavor not to ruinmore.

Our grief must be defeated; it must not become our master, and make us ineffective, and put us even deeper into the ditch.

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III (speaker), Hans Vollman, Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 306
Explanation and Analysis:

Across the sea fat kings watched and were gleeful, that something begun so well had gone off the rails (as down South similar kings watched), and if it went off the rails, so went the whole kit, forever, and if someone ever thought to start it up again, well, it would be said (and said truly): The rabble cannot manage itself.

Well, the rabble could. The rabble would.

He would lead the rabble in managing.

The thing would be won.

Related Characters: Roger Bevins III (speaker), Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 95-96 Quotes

I began to feel afraid, occupying someone so accomplished. And yet, I was comfortable in there. And suddenly, wanted him to know me. My life. To know us. Our lot. I don’t know why I felt that way but I did. He had no aversion to me, is how I might put it. Or rather, he had once had such an aversion, still bore traces of it, but, in examining that aversion, pushing it into the light, had somewhat, already, eroded it. He was an open book. An opening book. That had just been opened up somewhat wider. By sorrow. And—by us. By all of us, black and white, who had so recently mass-inhabited him. He had not, it seemed, gone unaffected by that event. Not at all. It had made him sad. Sadder. We had. All of us, white and black, had made him sadder, with our sadness. And now, though it sounds strange to say, he was making me sadder with his sadness, and I thought, Well, sir, if we are going to make a sadness party of it, I have some sadness about which I think someone as powerful as you might like to know.

Related Characters: Thomas Havens (speaker), Abraham Lincoln
Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:
No matches.