Let’s start by clearing up the old confusion between someone who likes to learn and someone who likes to read, and point out that there is not the slightest relationship between the two. On the one hand, an educated man is a sedentary, concentrated and lonely enthusiast, who seeks to discover through books a particular bit of truth in which he has poured his heart. If the passion to read conquers you, its benefits dwindle and slip through your fingers. A reader, on the other hand, must value the desire to learn after the fact; if you reach the knowledge, honey on flakes, but go in your search, read systematically, become a specialist or an authority on a certain subject can end annihilating what we consider the most human passion for pure and disinterested reading.
Despite all this, it is easy to conjure up an image that does justice to a scholar and at the same time elicits a smile at his expense. We visualize a pale and fuzzy figure in a dressing gown at home, lost in his musings, someone unable to lift the kettle from the stove, or to address a lady without blushing, ignorant of the daily news, although well versed in the catalogs of second-hand bookstores, in whose dark rooms he spends the hours of sunshine …
A delightful character, to be sure, with his inscrutable simplicity, but he does not look at all like the other type of person to whom we will direct our attention. Why the true reader is essentially young. He is a man of enormous curiosity, with ideas, open-minded and communicative, for whom reading is more related to outdoor physical exercise than indoor study; go up a steep road, keep going higher and higher up the hills until the atmosphere is so light that it is difficult to breathe; for him, reading is not a sedentary goal, quite the contrary.
However, even if one does not have to fall into generalizations, it would not be difficult to demonstrate by means of an accumulation of facts that the best stage to read is between eighteen and twenty-four years old. The mere list of what is read in that strip fills the hearts of older people with despair. It’s not just that we read a lot of books, but that we had so many books to read.
Here we will quote the list of books that someone read in a January before the age of twenty, most of them probably for the first time: 1. Rhoda Fleming. 2. The Shaving of Shagpat. 3. Tom Jones. 4. The Loodicean. 5. Dewey’s Psychology. 6. The Book of Job. 7. A Discourse of English Poetrie, by Webbe. 8. The Duchess of Malfi. 9. The tragedy of the avenger.
And so the entries continue month by month until, as always happens with those lists, it suddenly stops in the month of June. But if we follow the reader throughout those months we will understand that could have done practically nothing but read. (…)
It is also more than plausible that the time he did not spend reading was devoted to some formidable discussion in which set the Greeks against the moderns, the romance novel versus realism, Racine versus Shakespeare, until the dim lights of dawn began to dawn.
Read. From the highest to bad books. Photo Fernando of the Order
Those old lists are there to make us smile and, perhaps, let out the odd sigh, but we would also be willing to give many things in exchange for reliving the state of mind in which it took place. such a reading orgy.
Fortunately, the reader was not a prodigy and, if we stop to think about it, almost all of us will be able to evoke at least the main phases of our own initiation. The books we read in childhood, after steal them From some bookshelf that was supposed to be inaccessible, they have something as unreal and eerie as a stolen vision of sunrise as it begins to bathe the peaceful fields while the entire house sleeps. (…)
But the subsequent readings, which are exemplified in that list that we have just cited, are another matter. For the first time, perhaps, all restrictions have been removed and we can read as much as we like; libraries are within our reach And, best of all, we have friends who are in the same situation.
At that age, the passion for knowledge is at its peak, or at least more confident, and we also defend a unique and intense point of view that the great writers corroborate, since we have the impression that they agree with us when judging what is good in life. And since it is necessary to position ourselves and defend our opinion in front of someone who has adopted Pope, for example, instead of Sir Thomas Browne, as a literary hero, we develop a great affection for these men and feel that we know them, not as They are known to other people, but in a private, totally personal way.
We fight under his command and almost in the light of his eyes. So we wandered through the old bookstores and dragged home Dutch and folio-size books, Euripides’s work with wood covers and Voltaire’s in eighty-nine volumes in eighth. However, these lists are curious documents in the sense that they hardly seem to include any contemporary writers.
(…) He will prefer to go back to the classics and stay forever with top-notch minds. For the moment he stands aside from all the activities of men and, looking at them from afar, judges them with supreme severity.
Indeed, one of the signs that youth is left behind it is the birth of a sense of companionship with other human beings as we take our place among them. We would like to think that we are keeping the bar as high as ever; but without a doubt we are more interested in the writing of our contemporaries and we forgive their lack of inspiration in exchange for something that brings them closer to us.
It could even be said that we get more from living writers, even though they may be far inferior, than from the dead. First, there can be no secret vanity in reading our contemporaries, and second, the admiration they inspire is extremely warm and genuine, because to allow ourselves to believe in them we often have to sacrifice some very respectable prejudice that honors us. (…)
So going to a good bookstore crammed with books so new that their pages almost stick together, with the gold on the back still fresh, elicits an excitement just as delicious as the old thrill at second-hand book stalls. Maybe not so exalted. But the old eagerness to know what the immortals thought has given way to a much more tolerable curiosity to know what our own generation thinks. What do living men and women feel, what their houses are like and what clothes they wear, how much money do they have and what food they eat, what they are passionate about and what they hate, what do they see of the world around them and what is the dream that fills the spaces of their active lives? They tell us all those things in their books. Thanks to them we can contemplate so much of the mind and body of our time like what our eyes allow us to see.
Readers. They change over time. Photo Clarín Archive
When such a spirit of curiosity completely possesses us, the dust does not take long to settle in a thick layer on the classics, unless some necessity forces us to read them. Because living voices are, after all, the ones we understand best. We can treat them as we treat our equals; They answer our questions and, perhaps more important, tell jokes that we understand. And after a little while we develop another taste, unsatisfied by the great authors – it may not be a valuable taste, but it is certainly a very pleasant possession. the taste for bad books.
Without committing the indiscretion of mentioning names, we know which authors we can trust to produce every year (well, luckily, they are very prolific) a novel, a book of poems or essays that gives us indescribable pleasure. We owe a lot to bad books; What’s more, we come to count its authors and protagonists among the figures who play a leading role in our silent life.
Something similar happens in the case of the writers of memoirs and autobiographies, who have created almost a new branch of literature in our time. Not all of them are important people, but strangely enough, only the most important, the dukes and the estates, are really boring. The men and women who, with no other excuse than perhaps having once seen the Duke of Wellington, prepare to confess their opinions, their quarrels, their aspirations and their illnesses, usually end up becoming, at least for a time, in actors of those private dramas with which we liven up our solitary walks and our sleepless hours. If we took all that out of our conscience, we would undoubtedly be very poor.
And then there are history and informational books, books on bees, wasps, factories, gold mines, on empresses and diplomatic intrigues, on rivers and savages, on unions and laws of Parliament, which we always read and always, of course! we forgot. Perhaps we are not defending the value of bookstores too well when we have to admit that they fulfill so many desires that they apparently have nothing to do with literature.
But let’s not forget that we are dealing with a literature in the making. Of all these new books our children will select one or two by which we will be known forever. If we are able to recognize them, we will discover that here is some poem, novel or historical essay that will stand out and speak with other times about our time when we lie face down and in silence, like the crowd of the age of Shakespeare he is silent and only lives for us through the pages of his poetry.