In 2016, Amor Towles made his highly anticipated literary return with A Gentleman in Moscow, five years after his critically successful debut. The novel chronicles the story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov who was sentenced by the Bolshevik tribunal to a lifetime of house arrest at Moscow’s Hotel Metropol. The novel flowed with its depiction of day-to-day life in a hotel while simultaneously capturing the feeling of suffocation brought about by the limitation on Count Rostov’s action. It was easily one of my favorite reads of 2021. Complementing the story was Towles’ prose which flowed fluidly. It was also a well for lyrical and quotable lines. I have rounded up some of these memorable lines. I hope you enjoy them.
Do check out my complete review of this literary work by clicking here.
“He said that our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive or even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of lucidity – a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of the life we had been meant to lead all along.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“Perhaps you are still skeptical. Well then, what about you? No doubt there have been moments when your life has taken a bit of a leap forward; and no doubt you look back upon those moments with self-assurance and pride. But was there really no third party deserving of even a modicum of credit? Some mentor, family friend, or schoolmate who gave a timely advice, made an introduction, or put in a complimentary word?”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“Whichever wine was withing, it was decidedly not identical to its neighbors. On the contrary, the contents of the bottle in his hand was the product of a history as unique and complex as that of a nation, or a man. In its color, aroma, and taste, it would certainly express the idiosyncratic geology and prevailing climate of its home terrain. But in addition, it would express all the natural phenomena of its vintage. In a sip, it would evoke the timing of that winter’s thaw, the extent of that summer’s rain, the prevailing winds, and the frequency of clouds. Yes, a bottle of wine was the ultimate distillation of time and place; a poetic expression of individuality itself.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“For pomp is a tenacious force. And a wily one too. How humbly it bows its head as the emperor is dragged down the steps and tossed in the street. But then, having quietly bided its time, while helping the newly appointed leader on with his jacket ,it compliments his appearance and suggests the wearing of a medal or two. Or, having served him at a formal dinner, it wonders aloud if a taller chair might not have been fitting for a man with such responsibilities. The soldiers of the common man may toss the banners of the old regime on the victory pyre, but soon enough trumpets will blare and pomp will take its place at the side of the throne, having once again secured its dominion over history and kings.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“From the earliest age, we must learn to say good-bye to friends and family. We see our parents and siblings off at the station; we visit cousins, attend schools, join the regiment; we marry or travel abroad. It is part of the human experience that we are constantly gripping a good fellow by the shoulders and wishing him well, taking comfort from the notion that we will hear word of him soon enough.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“But just as important, a careful accounting of days allows the isolated to note that another year of hardship has been endured; survived; bested. Whether they have found the strength to persevere through a tireless determination of some foolhardy optimism, those 365 hatch marks stand as proof of their indomitability. For after all, if attentiveness should be measured in minutes and discipline measured in hours, then indomitability must be measured in years.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“As we age, we are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade. We are all familiar with the songs our grandparents favored, after all, even though we never danced to them ourselves. At festive holidays, the recipes we pull from the drawer are routinely decades old, and in some cases even written in the hand of a relative long since dead. And the object in our homes? The oriental coffee tables and well-worn desks that have been handed down from generation to generation? Despite being “out of fashion,” not only do they add beauty to our daily lives, they lend material credibility to our presumption that the passing of an era will be glacial.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“I guess the point I’m trying to make is that as a species we’re just no good at writing obituaries. We don’t know how a man or his achievements will be perceived three generations from now, any more than we know what his great-great-grandchildren will be having for breakfast on a Tuesday in March. Because when Fate hands something down to posterity, it does so behind its back.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“It is sad but unavoidable fact of life that as we age our social circles grow smaller. Whether from increased habit of diminished vigor, we suddenly find ourselve in the company of just a few familair faces. So I view it as an incredible stroke of good fortune at this stage in my life to have fund such a fine new friend.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“The times do, in fact change. They change relentlessly. Inevitably. Inventively. And as they change, they set into bright relief not only outmoded honorifics and hunting jorns, but silver summoners and mother-of-pearl opera glasses and all manner of carefully crafted things that have outlived their usefulness.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“It is a well-known fact that of all the species on earth Homo sapiens is among the most adaptable. Settle a tribe of them in a desert and they will wrap themselves in cotton, sleep in tents, and travel on the backs of camels; settle them in the Artctic and they will wrap themselves in sealskin, sleep in igloos, and travel by dog-drawn sled. And if you settle them in a Soviet climate? They will learn to make friendly conversation with strangers while waiting in line; they will learn to neatly stack their clothing in their half of the bureau drawer; and they will learn to draw imaginary buildings in their sketchbooks. That is, they will adapt.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“When one turns seventeen and begins to experience that first period of real independence, one’s senses are so alert, one’s sentiments so finely attuned that every conversation, every look, every laugh may be writ indelibly upon one’s memory. And the friends that one happens to make in those impressionable years? One will meet them forever after with a welling of affection.”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
“Surely, the span of time between the placing of an order and the arrival of appetizers is one of the most perilous in all human interaction. What young lovers have not found themselves at this juncture in silence so sudden, so seemingly insurmountable that it threatens to cast doubt upon their chemistry as a couple? What husband and wife have not found themselves suddenly unnerved by the fear that they might not ever have something urgent, impassioned, or surprising to say to each other again?”~ Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow