Sunday, November 30, 2014
A Kind of Happiness
You were quite right I think not to take on trust Borges' alleged obiter dictum about not being able to sleep without being near books. I have near enough eighty books by or about him and I've not been able to find any such remark. Perhaps more striking though is this, which he said on a number of occasions but also in print:
Jorge Luis Borges, 'El Libro' in Borges Oral (Barcelona: Brugera, 3rd ed., 1983), pp. 13-26, at 24-5:
Yo sigo jugando a no ser ciego, yo sigo llenando mi casa de libros. Los otros días me regalaron una edición del 1966 de la Enciclopedia de Brokhause. Yo sentí la presencia de ese libro en mi casa, la sentí como una suerte de felicidad. Ahí estban los veintitantos volúmenes con una letra gótica que no puedo leer, con los mapas y grabados que no puedo ver; y sin embargo, el libro estaba ahí. Yo sentí como una gravitación amistosa del libro. Pienso que el libro es una de las posibilidades de felicidad que tenemos los hombres.Books do have a gravity – amistosa or desastrosa – grotesquely out of proportion to their mass. When gathered together, for example in a bookshop, they exert an irresistible force such that a would-be passer-by is detained at the window, then sucked into the interior, and soon finds himself grasping one after another before making his way to the till. The wallet then levitates and opens, there is some kind of financial transaction, with the human will powerless to intervene. Would-be passer-by then exits. Paradoxically, removing a small proportion of the mass from the shop in this way has the effect of weakening the gravitational force, thus allowing movement away from the source.
I still play at not being blind, I still fill my house with books. The other day someone gave me as a present the 1966 edition of the Brockhaus Encyclopedia. I felt its presence in my house, I felt it as a kind of happiness. There were the twenty-odd volumes with a Gothic lettering I could not read, with maps and engravings I could not see; and yet there it was. I felt as it were the book's amicable gravitation. I believe the book is one of the possibilities of happiness we humans possess.