Old Books, Old Dreams

by Chris de Serres

I received an email this afternoon.  They had the book and it was waiting for me to pick up.  Many years ago I had this book.  It is an old one.  Published in 1950.  It’s binding is still remarkably intact.  It was exactly how I remember it when I was in my 20’s.

I took it to my office and gently laid (not plop) it down on the desk.  It’s spine had the name of the author and the title of the book in gold lettering.  I opened it and let the pages glide along my fingertips.  I stopped it on page 190.  An underlined passage read:

“I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind.”

He is French and he epitomizes the passion of the French people.  I hold the front and back covers in each palm, almost like a preacher holds the Bible during Sunday Mass.  Then I bring my face in close to smell it.  Aged books have a certain aroma that is indescribable.

It reminded me of when I was a student, working at a college library.  It’s basement had books that were 200-300 years old.  So long ago many were written in that old English cursive.  Yet, it was the smell of the this basement filled with these tomes.

That is the experience I felt here.

This book contains so many underlined passages.  It’s understandable.  The man wrote novels like they were pieces of poetry.  I still haven’t managed to finish Wind, Sand, and Stars because each page requires reflection.  It’s individual paragraphs make me feel like getting up and doing something real.  Something adventurous.

I’ve never encountered someone who writes so beautifully, so passionately.  With the exception of Neruda.

It’s original French title was Citadelle, but it was renamed Wisdom of the Sands in the English version.

I used to take this book at it’s word.  Would it be foolish for a man in his 40’s to continue to do so?