“When an underground train … stops too long”

When an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about

T. S. Eliot. “East Coker.”

“I had no attachments, I believed in nothing”

I had no attachments, I believed in nothing. It was not that I was a doubter, or that I had armed myself with the useful scepticism of a rational curiosity, or that I saw all arguments from all sides; there was simply no good cause, no enduring principle, no fundamental idea with which I could identify, no transcendent entity whose existence I could truthfully, passionately or quietly assert.

Ian McEwan. Black Dogs.

“His self-consciousness surprised and appalled him”

His self-consciousness surprised and appalled him. What need was there for this? Why did he not simply speak his heart?

Because his heart did not speak, that was why. Because language presupposes artificiality. Because in the end there was nothing, absolutely nothing, to be said.

Howard Jacobson. The Finkler Question.

“Good morning! Good morning!”

… suddenly, here…, in imitation of the local inhabitants, I am transformed into a veritable geyser of good mornings. That’s all anybody around that place know how to say–they feel the sunshine on their faces, and it just sets off some sort of chemical reaction: Good morning! Good morning! Good morning! sung to half a dozen different tunes!

Philip Roth. Portnoy’s Complaint.