I would like to know what "who spoke and lived in denial, destined" means in the following sentences:

The bus was waiting for more people to arrive. I sat by the window, the orange wool curtains drawn to block out the sun, rereading Quo Vadis. I cared less about the religious part than about the love story, the heroic turns, the bravery of opposition. This is how I lived back then – through books. I locked myself into their stories, dreamt of their characters at night, pretended to be them. They were my armour against the hard edges of reality. I carried them with me wherever I went, like a talisman in my pocket, thinking of them as almost more real than the people around me, who spoke and lived in denial, destined, I thought, to never do anything worth recounting.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he went to the agricultural camp (which was mandatory for college graduation). Back then, Ludwik lived inside books.

In this part, I wonder what "in denial" means. Does it perhaps mean that they pretended to have not noticed contradictions in this socialist regime...? And I would also like to know how "destined" is connected to the previous part. Would it be alright to read it to be connected to "lived," as in "who lived destined"?

I am an English learner from South Korea, so thank you for your patience in advance as I may not know obvious things. I would very much appreciate your help. :)

  • 2
    Thoy are destined (I thought) to never do anything worth recounting.
    – user14111
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 13:10
  • 2
    Nice question, will hopefully lead to some deep analysis of the quoted passage. Congratulations on 1000 reputation :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 13:28
  • Dear user14111 and Rand al'Thor, thank you very much for the comments. I reached 1000 reputation! Yay :D Thank you for your kindness in noticing that. Then would it be alright to understand the structure of the underlined part as "people (around me) who spoke and lived in denial, [and who were] destined (I thought) to never do anything worth recounting"? Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 14:03

1 Answer 1


The word "destined" needs to be interpreted, as @user14111 rightly stated in the comment above, as complementized by the infinitival "to never do anything worth recounting."

The phrase in question shows that the character regarded the people around as mediocre, as incapable of standing out by living a free life.

  • Dear Gustavson, thank you so much for the explanation. Then, by "in denial," would it be alright to understand that the people "refused" to live a free life? Or that they "refused" to see contradictions in the socialist regime...? Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 6:57
  • 1
    Yes, "denial" is related to that refusal to see reality. The author could also have used "self-denial," I think.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Dec 18, 2020 at 11:48

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