Friday, November 11

Conclusionary Provocations

Proust on reading:
Indeed, this is one of the great and wondrous characteristics of beautiful books (and one which enables us to understand the simultaneously essential and limited role that reading can play in our spiritual life): that for the author they may be called Conclusions, but for the reader, Provocations. We can feel that our wisdom begins where the author's ends, and we want him to give us answers when all he can do is give us desires. He awakens these desires in us only when he gets us to contemplate the supreme beauty which he cannot reach except through the utmost efforts of his art.... At the moment when the book has told us everything it can, it gives rise to the feeling that it has told us nothing. Moreover, when we ask it questions it cannot answer, we are also asking for answers that would not tell us anything, because one effect of the love which poets awaken in us is to make us attach a literal importance to the things which for them are meaningful due to merely personal emotions.
-from Marcel Proust and John Ruskin: On Reading, edited and translated by Damion Searls, published in 2011.

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