6 David Szalay Quotes That Will Make You Reevaluate What It Means To Be Human

The Man Booker Prize shortlist this year covers an impressive range of topics from murder to madness — but the novel by nominee David Szalay is about a topic that, on the surface, seems far less mysterious: masculinity. I mean, men have been at the center of history and literature for centuries, right? But somehow, in Szalay's masterful hands, the topic seems brand new again.

Szalay's novel, All That Man Is, is actually made up of nine short stories, each following a different protagonist. For the most part, the characters are unrelated, except that the elderly protagonist of the last story is the grandfather of the teenage protagonist of the first. Another neat little trick: the central character of each story is older than the one before it. That way, we see glimpses into each stage of a man's life — albeit in different places and situations.

In an interview with The Paris Review, David Szalay explained that he had been feeling disillusioned with the form of the novel, and enjoyed this new format in which he "didn't have to elaborate for the sake of elaboration, which is how it can sometimes feel to write a novel." Writing a series of shorter narratives gave him freedom to explore more fully his interest in masculinity, the ways in which people are all different, and the ways in which we are all the same. These six thought-provoking quotes on the human condition will definitely make you intrigued to read Szalay's novel.

1. "Masculinity does seem to have a habit of finding itself in crisis: it could be argued that The Iliad depicts a crisis of masculinity perplexing the men of the Aegean three-thousand years ago. While nearer our own time, Shakespeare was clearly grappling with a cultural shift that entailed its own crisis of masculinity ... in an age when to be ‘a man’ was still more or less synonymous with being a soldier – someone good with swords, not words – this caused Shakespeare some moments of unhappy self-contemplation ... In short, I don’t know whether or not masculinity is permanently, or just cyclically, in crisis – but I doubt that a sense of crisis is anything new."

— David Szalay in an interview with Penguin

2. "The passing of time. That is what is eternal, that is what has no end. And it shows itself only in the effect it has on everything else, so that everything else embodies, in its own impermanence, the one thing that never ends. Which would seem to be an extraordinary paradox."

— David Szalay, All That Man Is

3. "[The stories] are all part of this process of . . . just life, time, and aging, and all of that. Everyone is going through it, even though we all feel that we’re going through it alone ... But somehow the fact that everyone is going through it, ­inescapably and simultaneously . . . there is something positive about that."

— David Szalay in The Paris Review

4. "I think that there are differences in the way men and women experience the world – that seems to me like a statement of the obvious. On the other hand, there are, equally obviously, any number of shared perspectives as well. I don’t think we ‘see the world’ in just one way – or one of two ways. There seems to be more going on than that."

— David Szalay in an interview with Penguin

5. "But somehow you take something emotionally from writing the book, from the process of writing the book. It changes you. Writing the book changes you. At the end of the process, you’re not where you were at the beginning."

— David Szalay in The Paris Review

6. "We all think we're special — we're all the fucking same."

— David Szalay, All That Man Is