the frog-readers

“ ‘Those are the frog-readers. They make up the vast majority of human readers, and yet I only discovered their existence quite late in life. I am so terribly naïve. I thought that everyone read the way I do. For I read the way I ear: that means not only do I need to read, but also, and above all, that reading becomes one of my components and modifies them all. You are not the same person depending on whether you have eaten blood pudding or caviar; nor are you the same person depending on whether you have just read Kant (God help us) or Queneau. Well, when I say “you,” I should say “I myself and a few others,” because the majority of people emerge from reading Proust or Simenon in an identical state: they have neither lost a fraction of what they were nor gained a single additional fraction. They have read, that’s all: in the best-case scenario, they know “what it’s all about.” And I’m not exaggerating. How often have I asked intelligent people, “Did this book change you?” And they look at me, their eyes wide, as if to say, “Why should a book change me?” ’ ”

(Amélie Nothomb, Hygiene and the Assassin, trans. Alison Anderson, p. 54. As printed, the last line reads “Why should a book to change me?”)

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