Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Silent Library

There are some dark and intimate passages in The Glass Bead Game. Unsurprisingly, one of the most intense (bordering on homosocial desire) takes place within a library. The silence of that place carries the weight of attraction. Silence is a characteristic of mind: memory envisaged as a library. In his evocative work, The Library at Night, Manguel captures the magic of silence:

Like Machiavelli, I often sit among my books at night. While I prefer to write in the morning, at night I enjoy reading in thick silence, when triangles of light from the reading lamps split my library shelves in two. Above, the high rows of books vanish into darkness; below sits the privileged section of the illuminated titles. (p.193).

The library is a silent place where books are stars, and the reader is an astrologer seeking patterns in darkness. Manguel remembers a protective silence.


Shropshirelad said...

Libraries can be shockingly intimate places, as any student who has had the good fortune to glance over the top of a book into a pair of equally distracted eyes may quickly discover.

What it is about books--certain books? What makes them such thrilling places? Is it the silence merely? The voiceless void the active imagination aggressively swells to fill?

Eshuneutics said...

Ah, the library! Yes, there is something hermetical/erotic about libraries: that virginal space drawn around the reader...which must not be violated...which asks to be broken. Reading creates its own "charge" which silence accentuates. As a librarian, I expect you are an expert in such moments ;-)

Shropshirelad said...

Well, I wouldn't say I am an expert, but I have had my moments.

[wistful sigh]