The Rage of Clytemnestra: Quotes “House of Names” by Colm Toibin

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House of Names is a 2016 historical fiction novel by Colm Toibin. It focusses on the life of Clytemnestra as her husband, Agamemnon, leaves for the Trojan War. It follows Clytemnestra’s anguish over the death of a close relative (I’m trying to be as careful as possible so I don’t give away any spoilers!) and her rage towards her husband. It becomes obvious that this novel was written using Homer’s Odyssey and Aeschylus’s Oresteia as sources. Featured here is a collection of quotes that stood out to me.

“In time, what happened would haunt no-one and belong to no-one, once they themselves had passed on into the darkness and into the abiding shadows.”

“Death and all its drama filled them with a satisfaction that lasted until the very end of the evening.”

“The gods release feelings that were once pure or sweet. Feelings that mattered once. They allow love to matter since love can do no harm to the dead.”

“Death is ravenous for more death.”

“I live alone in the shivering, solitary knowledge that the time of the gods has passed.”

“I know as no-one else knows that the gods are distant, they have other concerns. They care about human desires and antics in the same way that I care about the leaves of a tree.”

“Our appeal to the gods is the same as the appeal a star makes in the sky above us before it falls, it is a sound we cannot hear, a sound to which, even if we did hear it, we would be fully indifferent.”

“Achilles has been sent to us to end what began before I was born, before my husband as born. Some venom in our blood, in all our blood. Old crimes and desires for vengeance. Old murders and memories of murder. Old wars and old treacheries. Old savagery, old attacks, times when men behaved like wolves.”

“This is what the gods did with us – they distracted us with mock conflicts, with the shout of life, they distracted us also with images of harmony, beauty, love as they watched distantly, dispassionately, waiting for the moment when it ended, when exhaustion set in. They stood back, as we shook back. And when it ended, they shrugged. They no longer cared.”

“Beneath all her simpering insinuation, there was fury, there was steel.”