Sylvestre Bonnard, Bibliophile

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I like to look out of my window at the Seine and its quays on those soft grey mornings which give such an infinite tenderness of tint to everything. I have seen that azure sky which flings so luminous a calm over the Bay of Naples. But our Parisian sky is more animated, more kindly, more spiritual. It smiles, threatens, caresses–takes an aspect of melancholy or a look of merriment like a human gaze. At this moment it is pouring down a very gentle light on the men and beasts of the city as they accomplish their daily tasks. . . . .

The dealers in second-hand books put their boxes on the parapet. These good retailers of Mind, who are always in the open air, with blouses loose to the breeze, have become so weatherbeaten by the wind, the rain, the frost, the snow, the fog, and the great sun, that they end by looking very much like the old statues of cathedrals. They are all friends of mine, and I scarcely ever pass by their boxes without picking out of one of them some old book which I had always been in need of up to that very moment, without any suspicion of the fact on my part.

Then on my return home I have to endure the outcries of my housekeeper, who accuses me of bursting all my pockets and filling the house with waste paper to attract the rats. Therese is wise about that, and it is because she is wise that I do not listen to her; for in spite of my tranquil mien, I have always preferred the folly of the passions to the wisdom of indifference. But just because my own passions are not of that sort which burst out with violence to devastate and kill, the common mind is not aware of their existence. Nevertheless, I am greatly moved by them at times, and it has more than once been my fate to lose my sleep for the sake of a few pages written by some forgotten monk or printed by some humble apprentice of Peter Schaeffer. And if these fierce enthusiasms are slowly being quenched in me, it is only because I am being slowly quenched myself. Our passions are ourselves. My old books are Me. I am just as old and thumb-worn as they are.

The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard by Anatole France

Teaser Tuesdays – February 10, 2015

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can participate.

If you’re new to Teaser Tuesdays, the details are at MizB’s Should Be Reading or on my Teaser Tuesdays Page.

The hunt is on for scholar Sylvestre Bonnard in this classic French novel from 1881. A member of the Académie Française, France (Jacques Anatole François Thibault) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921.

The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard
by Anatole France

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“And why,” I asked myself, “why should I have learned that this precious book exists, if I am never to possess it–never even to see it? I would go to seek it in the burning heart of Africa, or in the icy regions of the Pole if I knew it were there.

I’m reading the English translation from Project Gutenberg (free here), but was fascinated by the Romanian cover shown above.

Also see Sylvestre Bonnard, Bibliophile.

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