The Ringmaster’s Daughter by Jostein Gaarder

by Catherine Chiu

  • I’ve never had any difficulty telling imagination and reality apart. The problem has always been to distinguish between recalled fantasy and recalled reality.
  • In certain situations the sight of a live person can be a scary as that of a ghost, especially in a ghost tunnel. Ghosts inhabit the imagination, and if something real enters the imagination, it can seem almost as eerie as if some fantasy figure had suddenly loomed up in real life.
  • ‘Dogs aren’t as communicative as us,’ he said, ‘perhaps that’s what you mean.’ And that was exactly what I meant. I said: ‘Even so, they may be just as happy.’
  • But a woman isn’t merely a body, and clearly a man isn’t either. I was convinced that one day I’d meet a woman whom I could love with both body and soul. Perhaps that was the reason I began to go off on long hikes by myself. One day I’d find her, and if she was like me, it wouldn’t be at a discotheque or in some youth group.
  • Once more I felt that Maria was the only woman I’d ever met whom I didn’t always understand. It was what I like so much about her. It’s impossible to love anyone you always understand.
  • When anyone I was drinking with said that they ‘wrote’ or ‘wanted to write’, I would sometimes ask what they wanted to write about. In most cases they couldn’t say. I found this puzzling. Even then — and increasingly since — I found something comic about the way society spawns people who are both able and willing writers, but who have nothing to offer. Why do people want to ‘write’ when they openly and honestly admit that they have nothing to impart? Couldn’t they do something else? What is this desire to do things without being active?
  • Self-respect is the name of a mental state that is less and less in evidence. And certainly as a virtue self-respect has gone completely out of fashion.
  • Terry: Why didn’t you let me die?
    Calvero: What’s your hurry? Are you in pain? (Terry shakes her head.) That’s all that matters. The rest is fantasy. Billions of years it’s taken to evolve human consciousness, and you want to wipe it out? What about the miracle of all existence? More important than anything in the whole universe. What can the stars do? Nothing, but sit on their axes. And the sun — shooting flames two hundred mega thousand miles high — so what? Wasting all its natural resources. Can the sun think? Is it conscious? No, but you are. (Terry has fallen asleep once more and is snoring loudly.) Pardon me, my mistake!

    Several times, later in the film, Calvero has to struggle to ignite the flame of life in the unhappy ballerina who is still in bed with paralysed legs, and on one occasion he says: Listen! As a child I used to complain to my father about not having toys. And he would say: (Calvero points at his own head) This is the greatest toy ever created. Here lies the secret of happiness!

  • I walked down to the hotel feeling as if my feet had lost all contact with the ground. Perhaps the problem was that my feet had never touched the ground. I’d been on a cloud all my life, I’d been floating around on a cloud. I’d been operating as a brain divorced from everything. There had been only two spheres: the world and my brain, my brain and the world.

    I’d had more imagination than the world could make use of. I’d never really lived life, I’d been compensating for it.

  • You don’t mince about cafés saying that you’ve ‘started writing something’. Perhaps you do write, there’s nothing wrong in that, but you don’t sit down to ‘write’. You write only if there is something you want to say, because you have a few words of comfort to give other people, but you don’t sit down behind a desk in a spiral of the Milky Way and ‘write’ something just for the sake of <w>r<i>t<i>n<g> or of <<w><r><i><t><i><n><g>>. But the poets posed on the catwalk. Climb aboard, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to this season’s collection of Kiepenheuer & Witsch. We have a creation here that should be of special interest to you.
  • It was so easy, it was like an amusing game, it was as if we were playing a trick on the entire world. Some people take years to get to know one another, but we were in a totally different league. We had already discovered many subtle short-cuts to each other. But we respected each other’s little secrets, too.
  • That was where he belonged after all, and we must all be very careful not to stray too far away from the reality of our roots.
  • I glanced up at the portrait of Ibsen. Mightn’t the truth just as easily be that Beate and I were two shipwrecked souls clinging together? I though of Fru Linde and the lawyer Krogstad. They were practically part of the fabric of this room. I was convinced that Beate had something dark in her past as well. Was the idea of a future together so unthinkable?
  • You squinted in my direction again, but I think this time you only looked at my feet and took in my white sandals. I attached importance to this detail because not all men look at a woman’s feet, but you did. You let your gaze dwell on my feet, you examined my sandals, so you had to be a sensuous person.
  • However briefly, it was the first time you and I looked into each other’s eyes, it was our first intimacy, because looking into a person’s eyes without averting your own — as one does when eyes accidentally meet — can be very intimate.
  • I felt naked and exposed and it felt good, it felt good to be seen and known, it was like coming home. It had been a very long time indeed since I’d had anyone to come home to.
  • Chaos has always had a particular talent for destroying the cosmos from within.
  • It is the first, or the last, day of my life. I don’t know if I dare hope for a miracle. I’ll save this and sign off. Everything is ready. Ready for the greatest leap.