Books Unread

The Guardian published a short exchange between Umberto Eco, the novelist and Jean-Claude Carrière, a script writer. It is about books they have not read.

Says Eco (I’m quoting these out of order, to make a point):
“There are more books in the world than hours in which to read them.”
“Who has actually read the Kama Sutra? And yet everyone talks about it, and some practise it too. So we can see that the world is full of books that we haven’t read, but that we know pretty well.”
“And yet when we eventually pick them up, we find they are already familiar. How is that? First, there’s the esoteric explanation – there are these waves that somehow travel from the book to you – to which I don’t subscribe. Second, perhaps it’s not true that you’ve never opened the book; over the years you’re bound to have moved it from place to place, and may have flicked through it and forgotten that you’ve done so. Third, over the years you’ve read lots of books that have mentioned this one and so made it seem familiar.”
(I like how he playfully offers the ‘esoteric’ explanation, only to dismiss it.)
And for the best line of them all.
“We are thus deeply influenced by books we haven’t read, that we haven’t had the time to read.”

For the short article and the link to the book where the exchange was taken from, see the Guardian.


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