Occasionally, I Pass By Little Shops…

Occasionally, I pass by little shops–in the rue de Seine, for example. Dealers in antiques or small second-hand booksellers or vendors of engravings with overcrowded windows. No one ever enters their shops; they apparently do no business. But if one looks in, they are sitting there, sitting and reading, without a care; they take no thought for the morrow, are not anxious about any success, have a dog that sits before them, all good-nature, or a cat that makes the silence still greater by gliding along the rows of books, as if it were rubbing the names of their backs.

Ah, if that were enough: sometimes I would like to buy such a full shop-window for myself and to sit down behind it with a dog for twenty years. — Page 45, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rilke

I too would like to own an antique bookshop for a chance to live like a ghost and have for friends dusty books and a cat. Perhaps that’s why this passage has stayed with me. But in its entirety, The Notebook is a masterpiece of literary hallucination. A man named Malte walks the streets of Paris, commenting on the sadness all around him. Rilke makes these amazingly visual sketches of the streets of Paris. It’s so vivid that you feel like you’re shuffling through a pack of photographs. Maybe that’s why reading The Notebooks feels like daydreaming. Then there’s the whole thing about a past he can’t let go, a past where people die and then show up at dinner table, a past of incestuous attractions, of strange intimacies. The book is creepy. But its also many other things.

The Notebooks is choppy. Sentences are stringed together as though in a hurry. Sometimes paragraphs have no single thought to hold them together. But then it’s a journal, not a novel. A journal of a man looking for himself on the far side of loneliness and memory.

Malte’s story is not everyone’s story. But that’s why most people will enjoy the book. There are very few books that do remembering right. The Notebook is one of them.

 

 

 

Make The Notebook one of your summer reads. Get a copy for one cent here.

Tags: , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

The 2017 Writivism Short Story Prize Goes to Nigeria’s Munachim Amah

13173450_1619200638400857_2469687830281826926_o

The Writivism Short Story Prize has gone to Nigeria’s Munachim Amah. He won for his short story, “Stolen Pieces.” He will […]

First Photos from the 2017 Writivism Festival

20819345_1994689334093219_6214976035878503585_o

The 2017 Writivism Festival just wrapped up in Kampala. It was held from 17 to 20 August. An initiative of […]

The Fall of the Gods | Chapter 1: ọ̀kan | Anthony Azekwoh | #TFOG

the fall of the gods (1)

  Ẹni tó ńbẹ̀rù àti ṣubú, àti dìde á nira fún un. Whoever is scared of falling, would find it […]

Wana Udobang’s Sophomore Poetry Album is a Sonic Book of Memories

wana udobang in memory of forgetting

Wana Udobang, popularly known as WanaWana, is no stranger to the Brittle Paper community. We’ve read her poetry, enjoyed her […]

Opportunity for African Writers | Submit to The Bare Life Review

barelife review

The Bare Life Review is a biannual literary journal that gives publishing opportunity exclusively to immigrant and refugee authors. They are […]

I Hear a Few More Things When Bob Dylan Says ‘a Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall’ | Chisom Okafor | Poetry

33130808452_c617d33eb3_o

My father plays a song aloud on Sundays, that begins with ‘Where’ve you been my blue-eyed girl?’ We scream on […]