Years ago, in a bookstore with my children looking for books, I came across ‘Identity’ by Milan Kundera and wanted to buy it. My daughter, surprised and somewhat puzzled, exclaimed, “Mom, why do you want to buy this book again? You already have it in your library.”
My reaction at first was, “Are you sure?”
She said yes so I decided to leave it there and check when I returned home.
Not only was I surprised to find the book, but from the creases at the corner, it seemed that I had also read it, and I then recalled that I had read it only recently.
Lately, I have more than often wondered how many times I have picked a book from my library only to find out halfway through the story that I have read it before. Is it me, or is it the fact that there are thousands of books out there in the market and in stores that are unmemorable? What happened? Where did we get lost along the way? As Paul Sweeney said, “You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.” That’s what I felt when I read ’The Joke’ By Milan Kundera, the same author. For me this is his masterpiece so far. I cried when I put the book down after finishing the story.
Who among us does not remember Uriah Heep and his ’humble beginnings’, or Captain Ahab, or Oliver Twist and his ’One more sir’; Santiago, the old man, and the boy when he saw the old man was breathing and then he saw the old man’s hands and he started to cry; Madam Bovary and her poor husband who went out of his way to make her happy but didn’t succeed; Anna Karenina, Jane Eyre, Heathcliff, to name just a few. With time perhaps you would forget what you read but you could never forget how a story or a character made you feel.
Throughout the years I’ve bought some books over again. This year as a New Year’s resolution I have decided to make a computerized list of all the books I have in my library in order to prevent such overbuying and unnecessary spending. And I hope that as part of their New Year’s resolutions, the publishers and editors out there decide to start hunting for more creative and original stories, with unforgettable characters.