On Conrad and books I like to read again now and then

Right here on this blog, last week, Michelle Richmond wrote about those wonderful books that:

“we read over and over again, books that call to us repeatedly over the years. And despite the fact that we think we know the story backwards and front, we crack the spine once more, because we know that we’ll find something familiar inside, and something beautiful, but we also know that each reading renders something new.”

I posted the following comment:

“As for revisiting books, this is a habit I only acquired recently (maybe because of that feeling impending of impending doom which strikes us when we get 40 – careful, Jeff!!). I´ve been reading again Brazilian classics, as Guimarães Rosa´s Grande Sertão: Veredas (The Devil to Pay in the Backlands is the English title, though it doesn´t carry out anything of the beauty and strangeness of the original).”

As for SF, a book I´ve been reading again and again for a while is Neuromancer. The short stories of Donald Barthelme and Thomas Pynchon have just entered in my rereading list (I just read again the proto-steampunk “Under The Rose”, which is in the collection “Slow Learner”).”

Later I posted another comment including Jack London and Joseph Conrad. At least once a year I read London´s To Build a Fire, and Conrad´s The Duel.

Of all the abovementioned writers, the one I feel most thrilled each time I read again one of his stories is Joseph Conrad. A Russian citizen (he was born in Berdychiv, now Ukraine) of Polish ascendance, Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski is considered one of the great masters of English literature – and he did not learn to speak English fluently until he was in his twenties (and always with a Polish accent)! His mother teached him French when he was an infant – English was his third language.

Does it really matter in the long run? No, it doesn´t – for it´s not a matter of patriotism. It is a matter of love. Love for a language. Love for languages, idioms, tongues. Things that we gain by accretion in our base of knowledge, and that only makes us better.

As Bernard Shaw once said: “If you have an apple and I have an apple, and we exchange apples, we both still only have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange ideas, we each now have two ideas.”  That something I´m trying to do in Brazil when talking to SF writers: exchange ideas, not apples. That´s the only thing to do if we want to move forward. And reading (and writing) in English is the ultimate action to bridge the gap of cultures and understanding.

Another writer I didn´t mention and that I loved when read her for the first time was the late Octavia E. Butler. Her Xenogenesis Trilogy struck me as one of the most delicate, considerate visions on humankind when confronted with the Other. I will definitely read her again.