There are many ways to travel. And in these special times, when we have to give up the great expeditions, reading a good book is one of them. Whether it is a novel, a biography or an essay, a good book is a way to transport yourself to another world, to visit it, to explore it, and to come back full of memories. It is also, like the most intense of journeys, a useful experience, a way of coping with trials, of experimenting with strategies and behaviours, which one stores, then unconsciously, in a kind of inner library, to bring out again, perhaps one day, in certain circumstances of real life.
If an essay generally aims to provide such advice very explicitly, a biography also provides it by encouraging the imitation of its hero; a novel also does so by allowing one to virtually live through imaginary situations, which one will almost certainly never encounter, but which enrich the panoply of possible reactions to all sorts of situations, to all forms of adversity.
Even for avid readers, the holidays are a great time to read more. And it is in this spirit that I have chosen for you ten books that I have read or re-read with great interest in the last six months. Not necessarily very recent books. Just books that I have discovered, or rediscovered, recently and whose memory will stay with me from now on.
– Solomon Gurski, by Mordecai Richler, a picaresque novel by a great Canadian writer. A masterpiece of self-mockery, imagination, style, and surprises.
– Everything I Loved, a novel of great subtlety, which explores in depth all the dimensions of hysteria, the masterpiece of Siri Husvedt, who is much more than Paul Auster’s wife
– A Golden Son, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, the great novel of modern India, in its conflicts with its traditions. Shattering characters.
– One day it will be empty, by Hugo Lindenberg; a fascinating novel about the end of childhood and the end of holidays, with an extraordinary economy of words. The novel of silence.
– Memoirs of Hadrian, that unclassifiable novel by Marguerite Yourcenar that I reread or go through every year, to rediscover a demand for style and precision of vocabulary.
– Paul Morand, by Pauline Dreyfus. The character is abominable, the writer mediocre, but the biography is vertiginous; it is that of a whole century, and its perversions.
– Until the end of time, by Brian Green, an excellent overview, very high level and very clear of the state of physical, biological and neurological sciences today; rarely has the popularisation been so limpid and at such a high level; by the end, one will know everything about the state of knowledge on string theory and the place of consciousness in the destiny of the universe.
– Vivre avec nos morts, by Delphine Horvilleur, the moving account of a consolation job. More than memories, a very great literary text, written by a very beautiful person.
– L’inconnu de la poste, by Florence Aubenas, another beautiful and rigorous investigation by this great journalist. Here, she investigates the mysteries, the grandeur and the pettiness of a small town in Savoy confronted with a false Parisian glory.
– The Gathas, the oldest known sacred text, rediscovered not long ago, and from which all the other sacred books of the monotheistic or Hindu religions were more or less inspired; remarkably translated and presented by Khosrô Khazai Pardis. A book that every believer, and every non-believer should have read; to put his or her convictions in the history of those of other humans.
I could also have talked about Marcel Proust, whose path I have followed this year in the many books devoted to him, and about Albert Camus, whose correspondence with Maria Casarès has, like many other readers, moved me. And so many other books, which I am unfairly dismissing. And with which I still travel…