20 April 2012

Books as People

The philosopher Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (1804-1872), from his collection of aphorisms Abälard und Heloise (Ansbach: Carl Brügel, 1834), p.1. My own translation:
It is with books as it is with people. While we make numerous acquaintances, we only choose a few of them to be our friends, our true companions on life's journey. 
Acquaintances come and go. Friends do not. Books that we have befriended never disgust us. They are not worn out through use; they create themselves afresh, like life; the pleasure we get from them is inexhaustible.
We first allow ourselves to form an opinion of competent people after we have dealt with them for a long time. But in innumerable instances we judge people as soon as we have set eyes on them, saying that there is no way we could get along with them, and we do not want to make their acquaintance at all. It is the same way for us with innumerable texts: even after the first few pages we have had enough. We can no more enjoy them than we could enjoy picking up dead mice and rats, or licking up other people's spittle. And we should also, like those monks who have lost their way, believe that we can gain our eternal salvation through such acts of penance. In these matters the verdict of antipathy: "I can't, I don't like it" is often the most thorough verdict of all, the verdict of reason. 


As far as I can tell, this little gem sat untranslated for 178 years. If I had known earlier I would have jumped at the chance, but someone beat me to it and an English edition (which I have not seen) appeared two months ago. Ah well. It is such a delight that I may continue to translate and post my favourite parts. Feuerbach Fridays?