Then Brezhnev grabbed the wheel of power and captained the country with the exploratory heart of a municipal bus driver.
No one can take what’s inside your head once it’s there.
We wear clothes, and speak, and create civilizations, and believe we are more than wolves. But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.
And in the middle of the lake the woman I’d spoken with floated on her back, eyes closed, as if nothing in her many years had ever gone wrong.
You will have the last word.’ ‘Your name will be that word.
She felt as buoyantly patriotic as her Chechen classmates who could trace their family trees back to the acorns
Her mother stared in quiet awe of this more artful rearrangement of her genetic code, and slipped into a contentedness that usually appeared only after the red wine had fallen below the bottle label.
Time became more important the closer to death one was, so an extra few hours to make peace with the world were worth more than years.
The future is the lie with which we justify the brutality of the present.
But inside us there is a word we cannot pronounce and that is who we are.
Wealth announces itself with what’s easy to break and impossible to clean. The chairs were all curvy works of art that turned sitting into yoga exercises.
Never forget the first three letters of confidence.
The stomach is not the only vital organ that hungers.
We know the meaning of nothing but the words we use to describe it.
She wanted to hold foreign syllables like mints on her tongue until they dissolved into fluency.
You shouldn’t rush, he said. There are no taste buds in your stomach.
On December 9, 1994, Yeltsin issued a statement ordering the Federal army to execute the disarmament of all illegal armed units in Chechnya, or as they were known locally, the government.
… hurt burrowed deeper than anything she’d ever felt, deep enough to change from the thing she felt to the thing she was.
Endurance, I reminded myself, is the true measure of existence.
He had always tried to treat Havaa as a child and she always went along with it, as though childhood and innocence were fantastical creatures that had died long ago, resurrected only in games of make believe.
Nothing, she now knew, could be defined in exclusion, and every bug, pencil, and grass blade was a dictionary in itself, requiring the definitions of all things to fulfill its own.
There’s nothing quite like the sight of two dozen half-naked octogenarians. We enter the stage of life as dolls and exit as gargoyles.
Entire years had passed when he was rich enough in time to disregard the loose change of a minute, but now he obsessed over each one, this minute, the next minute, the one following, all of which were different terms for the same illusion.
Of course he was required to wear a seat belt, just as he was required to give directions to a torture camp, because stupidity was the single abiding law of the universe.
In order to become the chisel that breaks the marble inside us, the artist must first become the hammer.” [Soviet censor of paintings and photos]
There are so many paths to contentment if you’re open to self-delusion.
He had memorized the entire Qur’an and lectured on the nature of evil, which, like a shadow, cannot exist independently of the good silhouettes.
She wouldn’t climb out of the bed for her sister, but she had climbed into a crater. She wouldn’t cross a room, but she had crossed a continent.
A single whisper can be quite a disturbance when the rest of the audience is silent.
She knew better than to challenge a man who spent his life preparing for the apocalypse.
Ever since studying in Russia as a college student, I had been in a long-distance, one-sided love affair with Chechnya’s remarkable history, culture and rugged natural beauty.