Favorite Quotes from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I don’t have any reviews for you guys yet, but in the meantime…here are some of my favorite quotes from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr!


“Werner chases the beam of his field light through the lobby. The big gun detonates a third time, and glass shatters somewhere close by, and torrents of soot rattle down the chimney, and the walls of the hotel toll like a struck bell. Werner worries that the sound will knock the teeth from his gums.
He drags open the cellar door and pauses a moment, vision swimming. ‘This is it?’ he asks. ‘They’re really coming?’
But who is there to answer?” -pg 8

“We are Malouins first, say the people of Saint-Malo. Bretons next. French if there’s anything left over.” – pg11

“Congenital cataracts. Bilateral. Irreparable. ‘Can you see this?’ ask the doctors. ‘Can you see this?’ Marie-Laure will not see anything for the rest of her life. Spaces she once knew as familiar–the four-room flat she shares with her father, the little tree-lined square at the end of their street–have become labyrinths bristling with hazards. Drawers are never where they should be. The toilet is an abyss. A glass of water is too near, too far; her fingers too big, always too big.
What is blindness? Where there should be a wall, her hands find nothing. Where there should be nothing, a table leg gouges her shin. Cars growl in the streets; leaves whisper in the sky; blood rustles through her inner ears. In the stairwell, in the kitchen, even beside her bed, grown-up voices speak of despair.
‘Poor child.’
‘Poor Monsieur LeBlanc.’
‘Hasn’t had an easy road, you know. His father dead in the war, his wife dead in childbirth. And now this?’
‘Like they’re cursed.’
‘Look at her. Look at him.’
‘Ought to send her away.’
Those months are months of bruises and wretchedness: rooms pitching like sailboats, half-open doors striking Marie-Laure’s face. Her only sanctuary is in bed, the hem of her quilt at her chin, while her father smokes another cigarette in the chair beside her, whittling away at one of his tiny models, his little hammer going tap tap tap, his little square of sandpaper making a rhythmic, soothing rasp.” -pg 27

“Werner likes everything. Violins, horns, drums, speeches–a mouth against a microphone in some faraway yet simultaneous evening–the sorcery of it hold hims rapt.” -pg 38

“Botany smells like glue and blotter paper and pressed flowers. Paleontology smells like rock dust, bone dust. Biology smells like formalin and old fruit; it is loaded with heavy cool jars in which float things she has only had described for her: the pale coiled ropes of rattlesnakes, the severed hands of gorillas. Entomology smells like mothballs and oil: a preservative that, Dr. Geffard explains, is called naphthalene. Offices smell of carbon paper, or cigar smoke, or brandy, or perfume. Or all four.
She follows cables and pipes, railings and ropes, hedges and sidewalks. She startles people. She never knows if the lights are on.” -pg 44

“Radio: it ties a million ears to a single mouth.” -pg 63

“There are cadets who do everything right–perfect posture, expert marksmanship, boots polished so perfectly that they reflect clouds. There are cadets who have skin like butter and irises like sapphires and ultra-fine networks of blue veins laced across the backs of their hands. For now, though, beneath the whip of the administration, they are all the same, all Jungmänner. They hustle through the gates together, gulp fried eggs in the refectory together, march across the quadrangle, perform roll call, salute the colors, shoot rifles, run, bathe, and suffer together. They are each a mound of clay, and the potter that is the portly, shiny-faced commandant is throwing four hundred identical pots.” -pg 139

“One week in Saint-Malo becomes two. Marie begins to feel that her life, like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, has been interrupted halfway through. There was volume1, when Marie-Laure and her father lived in Paris and went to work, and now there is volume 2, when Germans ride motorcycles through these strange, narrow streets and her uncle vanishes inside his own house.” -pg 145

“This, she realizes, is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.” -pg 160

“There is pride, too, though–pride that he has done it alone. That his daughter is so curious, so resilient. There is the humility of being a father to someone so powerful, as if he were only a narrow conduit for another, greater thing. That’s how it feels right now, he thinks, kneeling beside her, rinsing her hair: as though his love for his daughter will outstrip the limits of his body. The walls could fall away, even the whole city, and the brightness of that feeling would not wane.” -pg 189

“The sky drops silver threads of sleet. Gray houses run in converging lines to the horizon, bunched as if to fend off cold.” -pg 218

“‘Doesn’t look like much, does he?’ murmurs Frederick. ‘Hardly a couple of ounces of feathers and bones. But that bird can fly to Africa and back. Powered by bugs and worms and desire.’” -pg 224

“…to Marie-Laure this is a double cruelty: that everything else keeps living, that the spinning earth does not pause for even an instant in its trip around the sun.” -pg 320

“Werner remembers crouching next to his cot with Jutta after the Frenchman would sign off, the windows rattling from some passing coal train, the echo of the broadcast seeming to glimmer in the air for a moment, as though he could reach out and let it float down into his hands.” -pg 337

“It strikes Werner just then as wondrously futile to build splendid buildings, to make music, to sing songs, to print huge books full of colorful birds in the face of the seismic, engulfing indifference of the world–what pretensions humans have!” -pg 364

“Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.” -pg 376

“To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air.” -pg 390

“None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within which spin universes.” -pg 453

“To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.” -pg 476

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