It’s not that you expect anything in particular from this particular book. You’re the sort of person who, on principle, no longer expects anything of anything. There are plenty, younger than you or less young, who live in the expectation of extraordinary experiences: from books, from people, from journeys, from events, from what tomorrow has in store. But not you. You know that the best you can expect is to avoid the worst. This is the conclusion you have reached, in your personal life and also in general matters, even international affairs. What about books? Well, precisely because you have denied it in every other field, you believe you may still grant yourself legitimately this youthful pleasure of expectation in a carefully circumscribed area like the field of books, where you can be lucky or unlucky, but the risk of disappointment isn’t serious.
- Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler
“When I said at age twelve that I wanted to be a writer my family said, Certainly. When I went off to boarding school, my going-away present was a typewriter. Becoming a writer was like going into the family firm. I started writing—mostly ghastly poetry—in boarding school. At the same time, I was absolutely fascinated by ‘abroad.” The minute I learned there were foreign countries I wanted to go to them.” RIP William Weaver.
Read our interview with the English translator here.
If you have these two classics on your TBR list, now’s the time to get them. For the month of November, they’re only $2.99 as e-books! Check them out.
Yi Yeonsu hadn’t worried about her body in their house in Sagan-dong, in the heart of Seoul. There had been no need to. Her body was simply there, and she just used it. She was more interested in ideological and abstract things. Where did I come from, what do I live for, and what happens when I die? Her parents had taught her that she came from her ancestors, that she should live for her father and future husband, and at the moment her life ended she would become a spirit. But she could not easily accept what the women in literati households were taught and convinced of. She did not deny that she came from the flesh and bone of her ancestors. Yet she had a different idea about what she was to live for. Deep in her heart, the idea that was too dangerous for her to dare to say out loud was: I live for myself.
Young-ha Kim, Black Flower
Black Flower, a novel of a little-known moment in history when thousands fled Korea seeking freedom in Mexico, is now available in paperback.
Having an enemy is important not only to define our identity but also to provide us with an obstacle against which to measure our system of values and, in seeking to overcome it, to demonstrate our own worth. So when there is no enemy, we have to invent one.
-Umberto Eco, “Inventing the Enemy”
Eco’s collection of essays, Inventing the Enemy, is now available in paperback.