December 01, 2014

"6. The right to mistake a book for real life"

Daniel Pennac turns 70 today, a good excuse to pull out, for your enjoyment or re-enjoyment, his wonderful "Rights of the reader", from his somewhat redundantly titled -- but only in English translation -- The Rights of the Reader. In the original French the book was called Comme un roman, ("Like a novel") and as much as I love Quentin Blake, the Gallimard (the French publisher) cover is my favourite, so I'm going to put it first.

The rights of the reader: 

  1. The right not to read 

  2. The right to skip 

  3. The right not to finish a book 

  4. The right to read it again

  5. The right to read anything

6. The right to mistake a book for real life

7. The right to read anywhere

8. The right to dip in

9. The right to read out loud

10. The right to be quiet

Everyone will have a personal favourite, I'm sure. Mine is "The right to mistake a book for real life", something I have exploited to its fullest. Come to think of it, I might be even better matched to a 6b, "The right to mistake real life for a book". 

syndetics-lcI only knew Daniel Pennac the crime writer -- his crime novels set in the Parisian neighbourhood of Belleville, where Édith Piaf was born under a lamppost, having been recommended to me by Bill Ott (not me personally, it was his review for Booklist, but it certainly spoke to me personally) thusly: "Pennac's novels will appeal to those who find a certain inexplicable joy in spontaneous outbursts of oddity" -- until I came across a book called Au bonheur de lire,"The Happiness of Reading".

It was one of those books publishers put out like record labels do a "Triple Value Soul" -- a line-up of their stars. In this case the stars included Daniel Pennac, and the triple value included a cover with one of the most lascivious images of reading I've ever seen, with ripe jujubes (at least I think that's what they are) peeping from among the pages of a book. That cerebral image on Comme un roman is so last-century in comparison. 

Pennac's piece is about ownership of books. Few objects, he says, so inspire a sense of ownership as books. I loved his reasoning on how easy it is when you've really enjoyed a book, to consider it "yours", even when technically it isn't. So hard to give back to the person who lent it to you! (Libraries are different, of course. Of course.) 

Two great anecdotes: 

1. During World War II, the Italian novelists and anti-fascists Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante had to hide out for several months in a shepherd's hut. They had only been able to grab two books when they had made their getaway: the Bible and The Brothers Karamazov. "From which derived," says Pennac, "a terrible dilemma: which of these two monuments should they use for toilet paper?" He doesn't tell us which they chose. But he assures us they did.

2. The grandfather of novelist Tonino Benacquista went so far as to smoke his Plato. Prisoner of war in Albania (World War II again), he found deep in his pocket a page of Cratylus, and a match... "A new form of Socratic dialogue, via smoke signals."

The cleverest homage to Daniel Pennac, arrived at his eighth decade, came from Feltrinelli Zoom (@FeltrinelliZoom), the digital arm of Italian publishers Feltrinelli, who posted this wonderful taste of Pennac on Twitter:  

"Everyone's good at being born! Even I was born!
But then you have to become! become!
grow, increase, develop,
get bigger (without inflating)
accept changes (but not mutations)
mature (without shrivelling)
evolve (and assess)
progress (without getting senile)
endure (without vegetating)
get old (without a second childhood)
and die without protest, at the end...
an enormous programme, a continual vigilance...
because age, at any age..."

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 22:30


Post a Comment

Powered by Blogger.