Every time I lean back satisfied and close the book I have just finished reading, she seems to be watching me and, with a slight laugh, she shakes her head. It’s not so much her reaction over my satisfaction, when the book is a good one, nor any sign that she finds my reading habits daunting or too much – although she does. More that she is happy to see me happy, even when she doesn’t quite share my passion for the written word.
Not that she doesn’t read, quite the contrary, but she doesn’t read as intensely or as much as I do. She doesn’t lose herself in a book, in the storyline. For her, a book is a simple way to spend some time while the wash-cycle is running, before dinner comes out of the oven, or when there is nothing on the radio. For me, reading is an integral part of life and, when you don’t count those times with good friends and lovers, one of the best things to do when alone amongst others.
Photo Source: Maria Teresa Ambrosi – Creative Commons
Today I finished the second of two library books I loaned on Thursday last week. I’m not sure why I went in to the library, I don’t usually; I am more of a purchase-and-keep book person. Even if I don’t set my eyes on the contents of a book ever again – and at my age that is really casting the bait out a long way – there is a certain something about still having it. There is the possibility of reading it again or, rare but not unknown, of finding someone else who wishes to read the work, but can’t get hold of a copy.
The two books I have just finished, by chance but not design, are related to one another even though, on first glance, you’d never have thought so. The first was Ferdinand von Schirach’s Der Fall Collini (English: The Collini Case), the second Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown.
Where von Schirach’s work is strikingly simple, Rushdie’s is packed with detail. Both cover a long period of time, have clear themes of murder and revenge, and take the reader into a different world – von Schirach here in Germany, Rushdie in Kashmir – which they bring alive. Both convince the reader of their authenticity: von Schirach with his light and easy style of writing, of bringing the story across as normal and everyday work for a lawyer, Rushdie with the sheer intensity of his descriptions and characterization. With von Schirach the revelations strike all the harder through the simple manner in which he relates the tale. With Rushdie the revelations are there from the beginning, they merely need to be explained over the years leading up to that final moment and impact the reader through their knowledge, their almost personal connection to the characters.
How to explain this to her though? How to break through this loving smile, the slight shake of her head, and tell her that these books are worth the time spent reading them, in more ways than one, and that they cannot be read here and there without losing some of the magic? But she is happy with her books, and I am happy with mine, and we are happy with the happiness of one another.
- Viktoria Michaelis.