Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Salon: People of the Book

The Sunday

"Well, from what you've told me, the book has survived the same human disaster over and over again. Think about it. You've got a society where people tolerate difference, like Spain in the Convivencia, and everything's humming along: creative, prosperous. Then somehow this fear, this hate, this need to demonize 'the other'--it just sort of rears up and smashes the whole society. Inquisition, Nazis, extremist Serb nationalists. . . same old, same old. It seems to me the book, at this point, bears witness to all that."


Of course, a book is more than the sum of its materials. It is an artifact of the human mind and hand. The gold beaters, the stone grinders, the binders, those are the people I feel most comfortable with. Sometimes, in the quiet, these people speak to me. They let me see what their intentions were, and it helps me do my work. I worried that the kustos, with his well-meaning scrutiny, or the cops, with the low chatter of their radios, would keep my friendly ghosts at bay. And I needed their help. There were so many questions.


Judah fell to his knees and kissed the priest's cassock. "Do what you will to me," he cried. "But save the book!"


For four days, Renato moved in and out of consciousness. He woke with his cheek pressed to a stone floor strewn with urine-soaked straw and rat feces. When he coughed, there were clots of blood, but also long ribbons of clear tissue that fell apart in his fingers. It was as if his insides were sloughing off; his body falling apart from the inside. He was thirsty, but at first he could not reach the water jar. Later, when he was able to grasp it between shaking hands and pour a trickle into his mouth, the pain of swallowing made him pass out again. In his dreams, he was once again bound on the sloping ladder, the water cascading into his mouth, his own involuntary swallowing pulling the narrow length of linen farther and farther into his gut.


It's incriminating," I said. "Dangerous for you."

"I know. But there have been too many books burned in this city."

"Too many books burned in the world."

--Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book


Next up:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun


Table Talk said...

I think that section with Renato was one of the most difficult I have ever read. It is hard to conceive of such evil and terrible to think of it being done in the name of religion. I'm glad you thought this book as great as I did.

SFP said...

Oh, I agree. The hardest part is realizing this particular evil is still taking place and is still being rationalized. George Bush smirked his way through a television interview this morning claiming water torture (when and as he does it) is legal and is done to protect Americans.

aka_Nik said...

This sounds extremely powerful. I need to add it to my wishlist.

© 2003-2008 Mental multivitamin/M-mv said...

I picked this book up on the way home from our trip to Chicago in early January. Right after I bought it, I saw it in your photo/post about recent acquisitions. It was like a reinforcement: "Yes, this will be a decent book." (*wry smile*)

Thanks to this post, it moved up a few books in the TBR pile.


heather (errantdreams) said...

What a wrenching set of quotes! Wishlist time...

Yolanda said...

I am going to read Half of a Yellow Sun next also.

SFP said...

I'll look forward to reading your thoughts on Half of a Yellow Sun when you're done, Yolanda. I finished it last night and thought it was wonderful. Review to come. . .

Re: People of the Book--I'd thought about stockpiling it for awhile, getting through a few of the library books I have around here, but I'm glad I didn't.