Quotes from Solo by Rana Dasgupta

Read the review for the book

These are a few excerpts from the book with a little commentary from moi (okay, more than a little). Begone with that stupid introduction. Just go ahead and read these beautiful excerpts :-)

Sometimes, late at night, when his television is turned off, he hears the interminable ring of a telephone below, and he lies awake wondering where in the world this yearning might be housed and what it might seek so insistently in this household.

Well, of course we’ve all had that thought, but have you ever heard it being put like that? With such literary finesse?

He had seen people buried in the ground with their eyes closed; and in his mind he envisioned the earth in cutaway, with the stacked up strata of sleeping bodies so vertiginous in its depth that it was simple to believe the lightness of life on the surface to be no more than their collective dream.

This collective dream makes a reappearance towards the end and makes quite a delightful impact.

She spread out on a chair with her bare feet up on the windowsill, and, during the long hours when she read, Ulrich could follow the unfolding of the story in the splaying and clenching of her feet.

I think the gift of a writer is to observe ordinary things with the eyes full of wonder and then to translate that wonder to words.

The friction of Ulrich’s memory, moving back and forth over the surface of his life, wears away all the detail – and the story becomes more bland each time.

I could actually feel the grinding of the many folds of Ulrich’s brain against each other as I read this.

Ulrich had found peace and fulfillment in simple fatherhood, and now he felt actual physical pain at his son’s absence. He woke up in the night with the fantasy that the boy was crying in his room. In the morning he leaned into the abandoned cradle to inhale the vestiges of his scent.

I associate a particular scent with each person I know and I can totally relate to this.

What happened to all the horses? He remembers the smell of them filling the streets, the lines by the river chewing in their nosebags, the constant sound of hooves and shouting drivers. He thinks of the horses thronging Berlin, heaving every kind of merchandise.

He does the same calculation each time he thinks of it: one horse for every twenty people, he estimates, making twenty million across Europe at that time, and still their numbers exploding with the population. Then, after centuries of coexistence, humans turned away from horses and embraced machines. But he does not remember seeing how the surplus of horses was carried off.

He tries to visualize the volume of twenty million horses. ‘Did we eat them without knowing?’ he asks himself. The question irritates him because he has gone countless times through this sequence of thoughts and he knows it does not produce any answers.

An old man dealing with a century of changes. There could be no better way to bring that out than these curious meanderings of thought.

A long time ago, Boris and I had a debate about Chemistry. I said it was the science of life, and he said it only brought death. Now I see that our view were simply two halves of the same thing.

An understanding of that there is no absolute good or bad. There’s another side to everything.

When they brought in communism, it was for the people, so they killed the people. Now they’ve brought in capitalism, it is for the rich, so they only kill the rich. This time, you and I have nothing to worry about.

Ulrich’s neighbor summing up the ways of our world in 3 sentences.

‘They built one of the most expensive factories in the entire Soviet bloc,’ said Ulrich to Comrade Denov, ‘on the basis of an ore they could not use. Where is the logic?’

‘Perhaps the logic was to build one of the most expensive factories in the Soviet bloc.’

Ulrich looked at him, appalled.

Communism. In fact, any ‘-ism’.

I don’t know what happens to us, It’s difficult to sustain our passions through life, and we become mournful for what we’ve given up.

It is not the moving on that’s hard, it’s the letting go.

There’s nothing tragic about disease, or age, or empty shops. It’s time for me to die. The tragedy is when people don’t feel around you, and never laugh.

Ulrich’s mother giving him some motherly advice.

For year after year, he sat in the factory, playing music. On the vast concrete floor there were smudges where Boris cleared out his ambit in the dust – and in the gloom, his violin bow flashed like a sewing machine, gradually stitching his youth.

If that is not poetry, I don’t know what is.

The only way to survive is to be afraid.

Something that Kakha, the Mafia Lord says to Khatuna when she says that he must be so brave.

It is thanks to the exacting olfactory senses of moths that night flowers smell so lovely

Something composed by Irakli.

Sometimes I’ve felt the exact sensation of death. It was like old wine from a cellar, and when it was over, I wished it would return.

Irakli again. Astounding.

'When I die,' says Ulrich, 'they will put me under the ground, where even those with eyes become blind like me. I will lie with an eternity of dreamers. breeding visions that will flicker on the surface - and the children of my day dreams will roam free.'  Background image - Jacobs dream by José de Ribera

‘When I die,’ says Ulrich, ‘they will put me under the ground, where even those with eyes become blind like me. I will lie with an eternity of dreamers. breeding visions that will flicker on the surface – and the children of my day dreams will roam free.’
Background image – Jacob’s dream by José de Ribera


  1. Thank you for eliminating the stupid introduction. Only I have suffered the repetition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That mercy was only for you, milady.


  2. Dude, you didn’t add my favorite quote from the book! The words that make me seem “content” about my own life.

    “Ulrich has sometimes wondered whether his life has been a failure. Once he would have looked at all this and said yes. But now he does not know what it means for a life to succeed or fail. How can a dog fail its life, or a tree? A life is just a quantity; and he can no more see failure in it than he can see failure in a pile of earth, or a bucket of water. Failure and success are foreign terms to such blind matter.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t like this quote. This is a nihilist quote and it fills me with even more existential ennui than I had before.

      What is life then, if even our achievements and failures don’t matter?


      1. It just is, darling. It just is.
        “You and I, we were born to die.” (I broke into a Lana del Rey song there. :P)


    2. Not that I’m scared of facing the facts, but why should I keep reminding myself of it? In the words of Ghalib –

      Hum ko maaloom hai jannat ki haqeeqat, lekin
      Dil ko khush rakhne ko Ghaalib yeh khayaal achcha hai

      I know the truth about paradise, but
      you will agree Ghalib, if this fable
      provides cold comfort, then
      the thought’s not bad. Not bad at all.

      (Translation by Mustansir Dalvi)


  3. This compels me more to pick up this book. Amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

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