The idea for this story was created when I looked at the books on the shelves in my room. I was staying at home feeling ill for the third day already. Not fit enough to go outside, but too awake for sleeping. I was wondering what would happen if I opened my books one by one. I would probably find something interesting to share in every book. And all together, the small bits from different books would create another story. In the end I wrote about the first three books on the shelve, because there was already so much in them to reflect upon.
The first book is actually an agenda for 2020, the coming year. It was a present from my friend Ola for my birthday. She laughed when she gave it to me: “Now you have an empty agenda, so you will always have time to see me!” To me this book symbolizes friendship and the reminder to make time for the important things in life that make you feel joy and love.
The second book coincidentally already connects to this message. It’s a book translated from Italian. My version is in Dutch, a birthday present from my grandmother. The original title is La misura eroica. Il mito degli Argonauti e il coraggio che spinge gli huomini ad amare. This translates to English as: The heroic measure. The myth of the Argonauts and the courage that drives men to love. The writer Andrea Marcolongo studied ancient Greek, as well as many other languages, both ancient and modern. She connects the old tale of Jason and the Argonauts to current themes and other literature, with references to ancient poets and philosophers like Homeros, Ovidius and Plato, as well as the modern legends like Proust, Neruda and Pessoa.
I have not finished reading this book yet. Actually, I had barely started reading it. But while writing the few phrases above, I started reading different parts of the book, in random order, flipping through the pages until my eyes catch something I want to examine more closely.
Now I realize this book contains much more than I first imagined. Andrea Marcolongo shares her love for language and its deeper meaning, saying: To practice your love and dedication for something (or someone) enables you to discover yourself. The writer combines the sharing of her professional knowledge with her personal story, demonstrating the power of vulnerability and speaking your most private thoughts out loud. After the death of her mother, she used to be ‘senza parole‘, without words, until she started reading the ancient Greek stories which celebrated the vulnerable heroes, who endure loss and failure, while the are lost at the sea of life. This book reminds me of my love for languages, words and stories, discovering the deeper meaning and diving into the small details, which turn out to be the most encouraging when you feel lost.
The third book on the shelve I had not opened yet: ‘Winterbloei’ (Winter blossoming) by the legendary Dutch writer Jan Wolkers, who passed away in 2007. It’s a small paperback with a compilation of stories and diary notes about Wolkers’ love for nature. The nature of his own backyard, the dunes, the fields. I remember as a child I was watching the tv-program ‘De Achtertuin van Jan Wolkers’, where the writer tells stories about his wild garden on the island of Texel, about little insects, plants and birds. At the time, I was only six or seven years old, so I didn’t understand many things that he was saying, but I do think it his contributed to my own love for the small things, looking closely, while feeling the wind, the sun and the rain, the always changing landscape.
These were the first three books. Writing this down made me realize that books can be an escape from reality, but they can also be a bridge to reconnect with the deeper meaning of reality, and to make sense of our complex human experience.
Which books have inspired you, made you feel in love with something and encouraged you to discover something new?