Jean-Paul Sartre

Just managed to pick up his book again after finishing ‘Waiting for the wild..’. This one is called ‘Words’ and is autobiographical. There was some difficulty wading through the beginning, as he describes his paternal and maternal families in a rich and droning manner reminiscent to me of Dostoevsky’s ‘Brothers Karmazov’. But now the rich prose is getting better (and I’m geting more used to it) it’s quite enjoyable. Also enjoyable is the fact that it’s only got 150-odd pages, albeit densely packed, and once I’m done I can claim to have an opinion on French writers! I’ve only ever read Alexander Dumas (not pronounced Dumb-Ass) before.
Yes, here comes the quote. Sartre is a child in his learned grandfather’s study, surrounded by mystical things called books.

I used to touch them in secret to honour my hands with their dust but I did not have much idea what to do with them and each day I was present at ceremonies whose meaning escaped me: my grandfather – so clumsy, normally, that my grandmother buttoned his gloves for him – handled these cultural objects with the dexterity of an officiating priest. Hundreds of times I saw him get up absent-mindedly, walk round the table, cross the room in two strides, unhesitatingly pick out a volume without allowing himself time for choice, run through it as he went back to his armchair, with a combined movement of his thumb and forefinger, and, almost before he sat down, open it with a flick ‘at the right page’, making it creak like a shoe. I sometimes got close enough to observe these boxes which opened like oysters and I discovered the nakedness of their internal organs, pale, dank, slightly blistered pages, covered with small black veins, which drank ink and smelt of mildew.

Fascinating imagery of a boy awakening to the written word.

Leave a comment


  1. “I used to touch them in secret to honour my hands…” Now there’s a line that could be misconstrued. 🙂 (Just thought I’d ruin this intellectual post by pointing that out!)

  2. 🙂

  3. That was just beautiful. What more can I say.

    I hope your driving test went well.


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