My confinement reading list

⇠ Back to Blog:Fabrice

Easter is an important holiday break for us: that's typically when we make the most interesting and exploratory trip of the year. In 2018, it was badly spoilt by my intestine troubles, for which I had to be hospitalized for a few days, only to be hospitalized, this time for surgery and for about ten weeks, a few months later. This took in its wake the best of this year's holidays which had been craftily prepared for a great narrow-boating trip in south Wales. Last year, we visited Easter Spain, and still have in memory the shock of meeting Albarracín, a place which seems to have not yet heard about the Reconquista. This year we had planned to visit the Portugal which we have neglected, that is, all that lies between the Algarve and Porto, passing by one of my favorite region of Spain, also greatly neglected, Extremadura. But this time, it's not me, it's the World which is sick. So we're back to confinement. Not in a shared hospital room, at home, and thus there is a great improvement, but still... so little time is left to laßt uns reisen and it's unclear if we'll ever be able to go out again. Confinement is not the worst for a homebody like me, but it has one fatal flaw: I can never finish my work. There's always something else to do, something for which I'm already late, usually. When I finish one task, two new appear and fight to overtake the waiting list. The only way not to work is to go out and not open the computer, and let deadlines crash in an unattended email's inbox.

So is it all work and no play from now on? These first few days of confinement have indeed been very tiring and overloaded. Thankfully, one can always escape into this place that no authority can restrict, shut down or even monitor. The mind. In particular other people's mind, which you find in their books. I'm currently very excited for having discovered a major Author whom I regard as the contemporary—not equal—but equivalent, of Victor Hugo, for the sophistication of the language, the richness of the style, the power of the metaphors, the ravishing of the story: Anthony Burgess. I already knew that Clockwork Orange was a masterpiece but more than that, it was a classic. And not really for the work itself, of course, but for Kubrick's equally genious movie adaptation. But I'm currently reading Earthly Powers and I am over and over again crucified by the pure genius that flows with about the same intensity and regularity than one can find in Les Misérables. This is not a journey anymore, it is an epiphany. I read it with the same nervous exaltation close to anxiety that I had on my first reading of Hugo, of the bitterness of having consumed a text that I cannot discover anymore for the first time again. Such a strange feeling that I thought was pinned to the innocence of childhood but that is really the reaction to perfection. It's such strong material, such thick substance, it is about to phagocyte other literary experiences. My previous read, 'the Europeans' from Henry James, appears as the dullest thing I've ever read in comparison; and what a shock, again, to find this very Author, there, in Burguess' saga! This made me look forward to sitting and read as the best possible experience either, again.

So I have assembled with a feverish excitation one of my reading lists in tune for the confinement, favouring titles that connect from the past to our gloomy future. These are the books selected for the occasion.

Giono interests me for his post-WWII transition, maybe the equivalent, for this indexed Author, to Uranus from Marcel Aymé. Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères is the literary version of this proverb that I feel accompanies me in my confinement. As well, this will finally allow me to see the movie, which includes one of my favourite Brel's composition (a great book should never be shadowed by a movie, not even from Kubrick). Raspail has been too-much delayed. I have suspected for years that the great impending economical collapse would start from what this book tackles as its main topic, while it seems that a much more straightforward pandemic will trigger it instead. As I said, I'm always late. So I've included this and Jared Diamond's classic to get back to the front of what literature has to tell us about the end of our civilization. Achebe is a happy discovery from a previous list (May 2017) and also a fitting title and thematics of estranged feelings opposing where we are and where we should be. I hope to be able to devote enough time to complete it with other titles that one certainly can not enjoy more than in the current situation, such as Collapse, also from Diamond Jared, and to complete Achebe's trilogy. I also hope this won't happen because of my lateness in all things will still find enough room due to the prolongation of this incarceration.

⇠ See also the previous reading list.
⇢ See also the next reading list.