Friday, 19 February 2010

Words on paper

Just arrived: a paperback with blue, shiny covers. So bluuuuue! So shiiiiiny! The first delight is childlike (I could almost eat it too). This is the academic journal whose articles I laboured for much of last year to translate from French. So, nowhere near the thrill of an authored book, of course, but still astonishingly satisfying to hold in my hands the tangible result of my work, the bound pile of pages covered with words I chose.

It’s a timely reminder that writing and images on the Web or on an electronic reader cannot replace the book as enduring physical repository of knowledge, speculation or imagination or as object of so-sweetly combined aesthetic, sensual and intellectual gratification to producer and consumer alike. As I handle the book, my thoughts, my skill - in a small but important sense, my self – assume reality and significance for me. I worked to produce something, and here it is. I think we’re hard-wired to need this. For a moment I feel purposeful and grounded in a manner troublingly withheld by the prevailing online, globalised, placeless, timeless experience of life, multifarious and alluring as it is.

What a complex object a book is - a totem, perhaps, as much as a receptacle and tool. Should they cease one day to be printed, I think we’d be doing away with much more than we might realise. Must remember next time I stand in a huge chain bookshop thinking, ‘ugh, too many, too similar, what for?!’ that, even now, a lot of those shiny, piled tomes hold part of someone’s soul.


Beth said...

Jean, congratulations! It's a huge accomplishment as well as being proof of so many hours of care and labor. If there is one literary vocation I feel is under-sung, it has to be translation, which has given so many of us access to riches we'd never otherwise know. I practically feel like I know Clare Cavanaugh and Maureen Freely, for instance, and wish I could thank them both in person...all those books I've read are theirs, too. Please take a photo of the book so we can see. I wish I were there to buy and share a celebratory bottle of wine, but please do allow yourself to feel a lot of satisfaction with this.

marja-leena said...

Congratulations, Jean and as Beth said! I love the feel of a book because it's THE work of art, the creative product, the tangible result of a lot of hours of love, sweat and tears. To me, the online presentation has its joys in quick sharing and conversation but is too ephemeral, just like it is for showing art work - the tactile and sensual experience is missing. We need both, hmm?

kasturi said...

i agree, jean, in the development of the book, humans truly 'stumbled upon' something uniquely suited to the human soul. Didnt Emily Dickinson say something about 'there is no frigate like a book?'

congratulations on your new shiny blue one (well, one that you put together, as you say), and thanks so much too for stopping by and leaving a comment on my poem. it seems like a long time, and i love the new look of your blog. can't we're still in touch.

Tamar said...

Hurray! How exciting! Am so happy for you, Jean. Fantastic accomplishment!
Yes indeed a book surely holds part of one's soul (I can surely testify to that). And, as you translate and choose each and every word, you surely share your soul within that shiny blue paperback in your hands as we speak!

Daisy-Winifred said...

Congratulations. Such a good thing to find the fruits of your labour bringing smile to your lips,warmth to your heart and a moment tangible to your mind and the very centre of you as being goodand trueand beautiful.
Hooray for shiny blue covered books that sing out accomplishment and WELL DONE for all the long hard hours of work. To have chosen the words,such a responsibility but what a thrill to find them made available to complete strangers who will share the moment with you no matter if they never open the covers,they will hold your idea of the right words and the energy will be theirs to share.
Yes books are totems but I think they are medicine bags too which carry healing in many forms and it is in the touching, sharing tangible form of a book that connections are found within oneself and with a greater world.