8 Madeleine Thien Quotes That Showcase Her Remarkable Writing

Canadian author Madeleine Thien's book, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, has been short-listed for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious international awards in literature. Thien has previously authored several books, including Dogs at the Perimeter, Certainty, and Simple Recipes — and if you don't have time to read any before the ceremony, take a moment to reflect on these Madeleine Thien quotes.

Originally published in Canada, Do Not Say We Have Nothing came to the U.S. this October. The story takes place in China, showcasing two generations of an extended family: one who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution and another who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. The book is a robust exploration, filled with music, protests, and characters whose struggles will move you to your core.

It's hard to find a sentence in Thien's writing that isn't quotable. Her musings are poetic and sharp, and she demonstrates a remarkable perceptiveness with every page, every paragraph, every sentence, every word.

These Madeleine Thien quotes will give you a taste of the author's style and her profound way of thinking. Even just this small helping of Thien's writing will have your mind churning.

1. “I like to think of home as a verb, something we keep recreating.”

2. “The only life that matters is in your mind. The only truth is the one that lives invisibly, that waits even after you close the book. Silence, too, is a kind of music. Silence will last.”

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

3. “He'd been thinking about the quality of sunshine, that is, how daylight wipes away the stars and the planets, making them invisible to human eyes. If one needed the darkness in order to see the heavens, might daylight be a form of blindness? Could it be that sound was also a form of deafness? If so, what was silence?”

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

4. “When she returned, she was full of life, impassioned. She seemed to want change, within herself, between them, and she believed all things were possible. She said that the past was not static, our memories fold and bend, we change with every step taken into the future.”


5. “But for anything to be alive, it required motion: the current must run, the record must turn, a person must leave or find another path. Without movement or change, the world became nothing more than a stale copy, and this was the trouble with Ba's elegant calligraphy, his patient life, it was frozen in time.”

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

6. “Was there anyone in this world who could taste something delicious — economic freedom and political reform — a taste that was salty and fattening and sweet and promising, and only be satisfied with one mouthful? Who would wait patiently for nearly a billion people to also have a taste? No, anyone would try to get a second mouthful, a third, a whole bowl for themselves.”

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

7. "She could not stop her own heart from breaking. But for her daughter behind this mountain was another mountain, behind this sea, another sea."

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

8. "It was like learning to breathe again, not just with his lungs but with his whole mind."

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

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