Musings

All of us have favourite books we re-read time and again. These books are places where one can hide, rest and imagine different lives, different times. They have a familiar feel to them, they smell  just right and as soon as the words scroll by one is displaced and captivated.

They allow us to return to times in our lives long thought lost by recapturing vivid memories and associations we had at the time of reading them for the first, the second, the tenth time.

I, myself, have five such books. I will re-read them from time to time. I am drawn to the stories they reveal, the emotions they conjure deep within me. I am happy when I read them, content. I am transported, changed, as each reading will reveal a new detail or a forgotten connection, triggering dormant sections of my mind.

These books are, in no particular order, Healer by F. Paul Wilson, Tuf Voyaging by George R R Martin (written well before his GoT fame), What Mad Universe by Frederic Brown, Hurra, wir leben noch and Es muss nicht immer Kaviar sein, both by Johannes Mario Simmel, and, I fear, not translated into English.

The books by Simmel have the added advantage of purportedly being true stories. Simmel chronicled the events of both books, taking the point of view of the respective protagonists, Jakob Formann (not his real name), a self-made industrialist in post-war Europe, and Thomas Lieven (not his real name), whose story is too unbelievable not to be true.

The other three works are all Science Fiction, but Science Fiction with a decidedly human bend. A man displaced into an alternate reality, similar but maddeningly different from his. It is all he can do to stay alive. Another man unwittingly sharing his body with a second, invading mind, whose consciousness reaches down to the cellular level, leading to inevitable immortality and all its trappings. The final man, not so much a man, but a stylised symbol of a man, stilted, exceedingly well-spoken, philanthropic, fragile and omnipotent – an itinerant merchant without a sense for business in the possession of one of the most powerful weapons ever dreamed up by Science Fiction.

I am not entirely sure what these books say about me, but they are my favourites such as they are. I would take them on a one-way-trip to Mars, pack them in my steamer trunk as I set out to the Paleolithic and strap them to my chest as I tumble down the Einstein-Rosen bridge.

I have learned (and still am), upon reflection, much and more from those books. Mostly how to deal with the unexpected, the shocking, the new and frightening. All the protagonists are anti-heroes, they are all flawed, they are all, in the end, completely dependent upon their own wits and ingenuity to survive and carry on another day.

Maybe you can look at your favourite books anew and ask yourself what they say about you.

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