Geoff Dyer · reading · reading projects

Setting on a long journey…

It seems that my aversion to reading literature is slowly fading away.

I’ve been thinking about this issue, about all the general dissatisfactions regarding my reading. To use Geoff Dyer’s words:

If reading heightens your responses, shapes your idea of the world, gives you a sense of the purpose of life, then it is not surprising if, over time, reading should come to play a proportionatelly smaller role in the context of the myriad possibilities it has opened up. [..] Of course there is more to learn, more to read, but whereas, when I was a teenager, each new book represented an almost overwhelming addition to what I knew and felt, each new book now adds a smaller increment to the sum of knowledge.

 ”Reader’s Block‘, from Otherwise Known as the Human Condition

 

For the best part of my reading life, the main reason why I read literature was knowledge. I wanted to get to know the world, to learn as much as possible about a human being, to embrace a variety of perspectives and gain experience. I hunted for profound thoughts, searched for truth and principles, worked on developing my self-awareness, and hoped to gain some wisdom…

I realized that for the past few years I have been desperately trying to preserve the original strength of this twenty-years-standing reason for reading, that I have been refusing to acknowledge its recent irrelevance.

If I remember correctly, it was the summer of 2015 when I started complaining about how I had nothing left to learn. Of course, I didn’t mean literally nothing, but nothing that wouldn’t be ”a [relatively] small increment to the sum of knowledge” that I had… The aversion towards literature that I’ve been experiencing for the last three months had two main roots: a brain strain and the strongest feeling of the pointlessness of reading that I’ve ever felt.

Dissatisfaction with reading was very much connected to my striving to hold on to knowledge as the number one reason for reading. I am now fully aware that this needs to be changed if I’m to enjoy literature again. The best course of action would be to concentrate more on a different kind of knowledge. Not profound thoughts but style and descriptions, not a human being but the human being, not the truth but the landscape and the atmosphere, et cetera…

Also, I want to give my reading a little bit of direction. I miss that. (Sometimes I think about going back to university.) Acting upon a wish to get (better) acquainted with the literature of the countries outside of the Western Europe and the United States, I am setting on a journey around the world. As I wrote in my rough reading plan for this year, the countries of the former Soviet Union are as good a place to start as any.

From the Baltic countries, I will continue southwards to Ukraine, then southeast across the Caucasus, and then head straight east to the ”STANs”, with Russia as the final destination of this part of the journey.

I am not setting any deadlines.

Source: historyofrussia.org
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4 thoughts on “Setting on a long journey…

  1. I think Dyer is spot on there – and I went through a bit of a lean patch with reading some years back for I think the reasons he gives. But I have gone back to my love of literature with a vengeance, often because it will take me to places I can never go in reality and it still opens me up to new ideas. Maybe I thought there was nothing new to read or discover but I’m certainly wrong. Your idea of exploring a particular area is enticing – and you have, of course, chosen one that interests me greatly! I shall watch your progress with great enjoyment!

    1. You are absolutely right, of course.
      No longer experiencing such powerful formative influence does not make reading literature less valuable. Now that I became aware of (and shed) the burden of expectation I was attaching to almost every book I’d pick up, I feel better and welcoming.

      I started with Elo Viiding’s short story ‘Foreign Women’. It is good!

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