The Golden Notebook Quotes


"That they were both "insecure" and "unrooted", words which dated from the era of Mother Sugar, they both freely acknowledged. But Anna had recently been learning to use these words in a different way, not as something to be apologised for but, but as flags or banners for an attitude that amounted to a different philosophy."

-narrator, Free Women

Despite Anna and Molly seemingly enjoying being free women, they acknowledge the idea that they are insecure and unrooted. Accepting these words that have a negative connotation as a description of themselves is contradictory to what the women say they stand for. Anna begins to realise this contradiction and wants to change that negative connotation into something more positive. But, just as usual, she is unable to share her real thoughts and feelings with her friend.

"Of loneliness. Yes I know that sounds funny, for you, because of course you choose to be alone rather than to get married for the sake of not being lonely. But I mean something different. You are afraid of writing what you think about life, because you might find yourself in an exposed position, you might expose yourself, you might be alone."

-Tommy, Free Women

Tommy, Molly's son, plays the role of Anna's critic in this part. He makes Anna afraid, tense and anxious. This may be because Anna knows what Tommy says to her is true. Anna is an artist that is analytical of everyone around her, but, when the tables are turned and she realises she is the one being analysed, she finds herself in a vulnerable and exposed position. This quote also represents Anna's block in writing, she is critical of her novel Frontiers of War because it has nothing to do with the truth that inspired it which confirms Tommy's statement about her as a writer.

"The mass of the Africans up and down the continent were sardonically amused at the sight of their white masters crusading off to fight the racialist devil-those Africans with any education at all. They enjoyed the sight of the white baases so eager to go off and fight on any available battle-front against a creed they would all die to defend on their own soil. Right through the war, the correspondence columns of the papers were crammed with arguments about whether it was safe to put so much as a pop-gun into the hands of any African soldier since he was likely to turn it against his white masters, or to use this useful knowledge later. It was decided, quite rightly, that it was not safe."

-Anna, Black Notebook

This part is filled with the irony of war, presented as a war against the Hitler's idea of racial supremacy where we have white supremacists fighting against other white supremacists for their racially inferior African "brothers" because, of course, they are not allowed to use the weapons to fight for themselves.

"The novel has become a function of the fragmented society, the fragmented consciousness. Human beings are so divided, are becoming more and more divided, and more subdivided in themselves, reflecting the world, that they reach out desperately, not knowing they do it, for information about other groups inside their own country, let alone about groups in other countries. It is a blind grasping out for their own wholeness, and the novel-report is a means toward it."

-Anna, Black Notebook

Anna is talking about her novel Frontiers of War here. What she says is that the novel is used as a tool, a mirror into other ways of living, other people's lives. Horrors of war have left people divided, fragmented and afraid of otherness. Despite that there is a positive note in people reaching out unconsciously to break away from the division. By describing the state of society Anna is describing herself as well, as she didn't escape from this fragmentation either, proof of that being her four notebooks.

""Why can't you understand that," I said, really wanting to make her understand, "that I can't pick up a newspaper without what's in it seeming so overwhelmingly terrible that nothing I could write would seem to have any point at all?"

-Anna, Blue Notebook

Anna is talking to her psychoanalyst Mrs. Marx on one of their sessions. Anna is experiencing a writer's block but she is in denial of it. She has bizarre and creative dreams and Mrs. Marx is trying to make her see that those dreams are a representation of her creative needs. Here we can see one of the reasons why Anna is experiencing that block: since the truth, the reality is so terrifying nothing she writes could be a valid representation of it.

""Content then. Yes you are. Much more than my mother-or anyone I know. But when you get down to it, it's all a lie. You sit here writing and writing, but no one can see it-that's arrogant, I told you so before. And you aren't even honest enough to let yourself be what you are-everything's divided off and split up. So what's the use of patronising me and saying: You're in a bad phase. If you're not in a bad phase, then it's because you can't be in a phase, you take care to divide yourself up in into compartments. If things are a chaos, then that's what they are. I don't think there's a pattern anywhere- you are just making patterns, out of cowardice."

-Tommy, Free Women

Tommy is again in a role of Anna's critic. From this we can see that Anna is self absorbed, feeling bad for herself. She is objective when it comes to criticizing people around her but can't apply that objectivity to herself. With the help of Tommy we get an outside objective view of her. Anna is mostly afraid of herself desperately trying to keep an order where there should be no order. She is afraid of being a whole person and artist with all the chaos that comes with it.

""Then why write it down at all? Do you realise the whole of this notebook, the blue one, is either newspaper cuttings, or bits like the blood and brain bit, all bracketed off, or crossed out; and then entries like buying tomatoes or tea?"

"I suppose it is. It's because I keep trying to write the truth and realising it's not true."

"Perhaps it it true," he said suddenly, "perhaps it is, and you can't bear it, so you cross it out."


-Tommy and Anna, Free Women

From this conversation of Anna and Tommy we learn more about Anna's fear. She is afraid of her own thoughts, of her own mind, avoiding the ugly artistic part of it and accepting the usual, everyday part. Despite wanting to be different, to live a life no other woman lived before, Anna admits that she is afraid of that. She crosses out the ugly truth, not accepting it as that, because if she does accept it she is giving way to her madness, to her breakdown.

""You want me to begin a novel with The two women were alone in the London flat?"

"Why say it like that? Write it Anna." I wrote it."

-Anna and Saul, Golden Notebook

In this final, concluding notebook of Anna we learn that the entire novel The Golden Notebook was a novel written by her.

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