“Every True Reader is a Writer in Force”

“Yes, exactly. But every true reader is a writer in force. A true reader is someone who remakes the other’s book. Besides, it’s the movement itself of the book. When you open a book, first of all, it’s a harsh act, because you break it. You open it up, to get out what’s inside. You begin your reading with the first page. You read the first page, you think you’ve retained it all. When you turn the page, what remains of the first, in the second? One or two phrases, an emotion at the moment of an encounter. You read the second page, go on to the third; of the second that you have nonetheless read completely, few things remain. All the rest gets erased. And gradually like that until the end. At the end, the book that you’ve enjoyed, that you’ve read with the greatest attention, becomes a book that’s fragmented by you, by the important pieces of your reading. It’s with that, that you will make your own book. And the author is always surprised when they cite a phrase of his when there were other phrases right beside it that perhaps seemed more important to him. For example, in my own experience, in the last book of The Book of Resemblances there are one or two phrases that were extremely important for me, phrases about myself, that revealed a lot of things. At least I thought so, that they were going to stop there and say, “Ah, look at this, here.” Well, even my closest friends didn’t see these phrases. What does that say? That says you can’t, you, transmit something through the book. It is blank each time. You can’t say, on a certain page, “Here it is,” because the reader doesn’t understand. Finally, it’s that all books work or they don’t. And when it does, it works according to the reading that you have given it. Of my books there have been the most contradictory readings.”

from this interview with Edmond Jabès

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