Promises are made to be broken, they say. Well, this one certainly was. There I was, standing in front of my bookcase once more, trying to make room for my latest purchases.
Sigh… I promised myself not to do this anymore. Living in a small flat, being a person who hates clutter, I am painfully aware that if my shoes don’t kick me out to get more space for themselves, then my books just might. And I hate throwing away books… or shoes…
I’m aware of my limitations, so I know I am beyond redemption when it comes to shoes, I’ll keep buying them while only throwing out those pairs that can no longer be worn. But there are alternatives when it comes to books, I have no issues with virtual storage space. So I promised myself to no longer buy any printed books, not before I finish reading all the ones I’ve got. I was doing so well, no new printed ones for almost half a year…
Then there was that small yearly book fair… I stayed away to avoid temptation. Then my mother came for a visit. And that was it for my little promise. Needing to keep my book snob of a mother properly entertained, I took her to the fair. I left my three new books on the nightstand, hoping to find a better place for them once my mother left.
I ended up with a small pile of books I could part with… but that was not going to be enough. So I started a second pile – this time, one with books I considered to have a much higher literary value, yet I knew I wouldn’t enjoy rereading. They had all been must-read books during my school or university years. Trying to decide whether to throw away Thackeray or not (no, not Vanity Fair, that one I’m still keeping), I understood those books needed good homes, where they’re really wanted or badly needed. So until I could find such a place for them, I knew I couldn’t get rid of Thackeray. The books from the second pile went back on the shelves, I squeezed in those new purchases and that was that.
Days later I literally almost walked into this unexpected booth in a shopping centre – they’re collecting books for underprivileged children. Now I know where Thackeray and several others are going next…
In many ways, books are fluid. Their content depends on their reader, it morphs according to taste and mindset, it gains new dimensions as time passes. It remains the same, yet it’s never the same, and the paradox reflects us, it reflects time, it reflects change. I find it normal, desirable even, that a book change owners once in a while.
While going through some of the shelves, I came across my old copy of Stendhal’s De L’Amour. I started reading it to improve my French, I remember, and it suddenly became my favourite book… for about five minutes. I have only one excuse for it, really – I was a teenager at the time, and if you think a woman’s preferences may be a fickle thing, that’s nothing compared to a teenage girl’s. Anyway, I flipped through the pages and smiled. I often underline passages when I read. Once more I’m reminded, everything changes, everything shifts and pivots on those constants we find in life.
“Rien n’est odieux au gens mediocre comme la superiorité de l’esprit; c’est là, dans le monde de nos jours, la source de la haine.”
“Elle vous quitte par ce qu’elle est trôp sûre de vous. Vous avez toué la crainte, et les petite doutes de l’amour heureux ne peuvent plus naître; inquietez-la […].”
(Since I’m feeling too lazy to look up the official translation, I’ll provide a rough one of my own. But my French is very rusty, so I apologize for any potential mistakes, I don’t mean to offend any French speakers out there.
- Nothing offends mediocre people more than a superior spirit; nowadays, that’s the source of all hatred.
- She’s leaving you because she’s too certain she has you. You have killed the fear, and those little doubts of a happy love can no longer come to life; make her worry.)
Stendhal and I can still agree on some matters; others, however, couldn’t be further from my beliefs. Like I said, change is everywhere, and literature often changes its meaning right under our nose, even if the words remain the same.
Perhaps that’s why maritime sceneries are so appealing to me. In a way, the sea and literature are very similar. There is constant change and unstoppable movement beneath the surface. Just like there are no two identical waves, there aren’t two identical readings of the same book, not even by the same reader.
To me, they both signify life, change and evolution; they are both relevant constants, landmarks, paradoxical as that might sound. They also signify death – death of feelings, death of moments, death of old thoughts, death of stages and seasons, death of ignorance. Death and rebirth. Life.
(This post was inspired by the Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Changing and/or Changeable. Thank you for the inspiration, Amy.)