Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Occasionally, I Pass By Little Shops…

SHARE THIS

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: , , ,

Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

For Working Class Writers & Refugees, Sulaiman Addonia Is Giving Out 40 Free Tickets to the Asmara Addis Festival

Asmara Addis Literray Festival in Exile (13)

When writing is described as an elitist profession, critics mean that opportunities in the field are determined by access, which […]

Modern Sudanese Poetry | New Anthology Spans Six Decades of Sudanese History & Cultural Intersections

Modern Sudanese Poetry - graph

Modern Sudanese Poetry: An Anthology, translated and edited by the Sudanese poet Adil Babikir, was published in paperback in September […]

Chuma Nwokolo Compensated in Plagiarism Lawsuit Against High Definition Film Studio, Shares More Stories of Plagiarism of His Work

chuma nwokolo by Yusuf Dahir

In November 2019, the Nigerian author Chuma Nwokolo called out Nollywood filmmaker Bright Wonder Obasi for using sections of his […]

Apply to the African Writers Trust Publishing Fellowship Programme

African writers trust

African Writers Trust (AWT) is a non-profit collective that seeks to promote the sharing of skills and resources, and to […]

Dr Stella Nyanzi Receives Oxfam Novib/PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression

stella nyanzi - graph - kampala dispatch

The Ugandan academic and gender and queer rights advocate Dr Stella Nyanzi has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International […]

The 2000s-10s Generation of Nigerian Writers Has Failed Politically | Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera

nigeria map graph

1. At the Ake Arts and Books Festival in Lagos last October, the novelist Helon Habila said something about identifying […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.