And Yet The Books
By Czeslaw Milosz
|And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
“We are, ” they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant,
Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.
I love the physicality of books. I love feeling the paper, hefting the weight, stroking the spine, caressing the leather-bound covers . . .
And apparently so did Milosz.
But what does this mean in the age of eBooks? Some one tried to convince me the other day that paper books were obsolete. I wanted to laugh.
And then I saw a 14 month old boy being “well-behaved” by watching TV on his father’s phone. How is that child going to be able to have the tactile and neurological connection needed for hard copy books?
Literature has survived changing forms before. But there is something so beautiful, so real, about books in a large, clunky form that I wonder what – if anything – this new change will mean for the way that literature is read and understood.