Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 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…

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.

Monthly Newsletter!

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

Archives

Psalm 151 | Theresa Lola | Poetry

PSALM151

Theresa Lola is a poet of considerable achievement. A few months ago, she became a joint winner of the 2018 […]

Opportunity for African Writers | Enter for the 2019 Gerald Kraak Award

gerald kraak - as you like it

The 2019 Gerald Kraak Award is open for submissions. The deadline is 25 June 2018. Founded in 2016 by the Jacana […]

If Football Nations Were Rappers | Musa Okwonga’s World Cup Thread Is a Twitter Moment

musa okwonga - god is in the tv zine

Writer-musician Musa Okwonga last week saw a fun thread he started, “If Football Nations Were Rappers,” in which he matched football […]

Cassava Republic Warns Against the Deletion of Local Publishing Houses

cassava republic books

A few days ago, publishers Cassava Republic published on their site a trend in which Nigerian media de-prioritize the work […]

Crime-Writing as Political Engagement in Moroccan Literature

InstaBox_201861813422729

Among the best known Moroccan writers are Laila Lalami, UNESCO-Sharjah Prize winner Bensalem Himmich, Grand Atlas Prize winner Youssef Fadel, Prix Goncourt […]

Mo Abudu Announces Film Adaptation of Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman

mo abudu WOLE-SOYINKA premium times

Nollywood personality Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife Television, has announced a film adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman. She […]

Thanks for signing up!

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

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.