Random Walk by My Library
Jorge Pinto Mazal
Random Walk by my Library by Jorge Pinto Mazal
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The title Random Walk by my Library is what I regularly do; walk by my library, look at the covers and pull different books that I read in the past and want to browse or in cases read again.
The series of reviews that are included in this book is the result of these walks. Apparently, there is no particular reason for the choice, but now that are together I can see some patterns and some underlying themes that attracted my attention and desire to share my views on these texts. Some of these reviews have connections.
Several have a relation to everyday human tragedies mostly examples of deceit, seduction, adultery and its consequences. Anna Karenina by Leon Tolstoy, Adolphe by Benjamin Constant, The Left Handed Human by Peter Handke fit this description. In the first two titles, the main characters deceive and mistreat women. In Peter Handke’s book, men, for short term satisfaction, to bust their ego or just for fun try to take advantage of a lonely, recently divorced woman.
Without a clear connection with seduction, I think Sándor Márai’s Portraits of a Marriage, give a excellent panorama of the conflicting relationships between women and men. Terrorism is another topic found in books with fanatics as the main characters or individuals manipulated by governments that use terror to promote their interests. Here I reviewed two Joseph Conrad masterpieces; Under the Western Eyes and The Secret Agent, both written over a hundred years ago. Unfortunately, the issues brilliantly described in the plots of these two novels are still present in our days with more bloodier results, religious fanaticism and better organized terrorist organizations.
Another set of books is a selection of letters written famous people like those between Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse, two great Nobel Prize Winners. Also, in this category are the letters by Vincent van Gogh, Frans Kafka, and Sigmund Freud. I can add the classic book of Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters to a Young Poet, addressed to one of his admirers Franz Xaver Kappus, a 19-year-old cadet who preserved the letters that have attracted many young poets and writers.
Other reviews are difficult to categorize. They include classics that are ideal companions to understand the complexity of our human nature. I chose for these reasons Albert Camus’ The Fall; Mario Vargas Llosa. The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto; Irvin D. Yalom. When Nietzsche Wept; Walker Percy’s Lancelot and On Reading by Marcel Proust.
Finally, I added a review of a non-fiction book, The War that ended Peace by Margaret McMillan, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War that killed millions, devastated Europe and was the prelude of a Second and more deadly war a few years later. As a fictional context to describe the horrors of war in families, friends and Individuals, I included a brief review of The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth.
Libraries since ancient times became the custodians of knowledge and human wisdom. Many are admired for their design and mostly by their assets and content. Instituted by governments and organizations for the public or build by individuals for their enjoyment and profession. Their primary purpose is to collect, organize, store and preserve all kinds of books, reading materials, movies, music and in today world all sorts of digital content. One of the most important library is Babel a biblical myth of a tower that represents a world without language barriers. It will grow so high that eventually will touch heaven. Based on that idea there are paintings by the famous artist depicting it in different shapes. One of the most famous was painted by Bruegel, the Elder. The mythical library has also inspired fiction writers, mainly Jorge Luis Borges describing in a short story, The Library of Babel is described as “The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.” Borges playfully mention some of the books in the library that created serious conflicts among their inhabitants. Borges story speak about the influences exerted by books telling us that “it was assured, there must exist a book that is the cipher and perfect compendium of ‘all other books’, and some librarian must have examined that book; this librarian is analogous to a god. In the language of this zone there are still vestiges of the sect that worshiped that distant librarian. “/1 The library of Alexandria is another vital reference, not mythical as Babel, but solidly built in the 3d Century BC. Conceived as a research center that hosted manuscripts and rolls from all over the world and the most varied cultures. Unfortunately, the Library was burned several times including Julius Cesar Army conquering Egypt. The destruction of this historic institution represents a significant cultural loss and irreparable damage to human knowledge.
There are hundreds of famous libraries created during centuries around the world. Running the risk of leaving out many important and relevant institutions randomly, I selected a few for their beautify and well-stocked collections that are listed is an Annex at the end of the book.