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Posts Tagged ‘Umberto Eco

“Me, poor man, my library / Was dukedom large enough”*…

Tsundoku (積ん読) is a beautiful Japanese word describing the habit of acquiring books but letting them pile up without reading them. I used to feel guilty about this tendency, and would strive to only buy new books once I had finished the ones I owned. However, the concept of the antilibrary has completely changed my mindset when it comes to unread books. Unread books can be as powerful as the ones we have read, if we choose to consider them in the right light.

What is an antilibrary? To put it simply, an antilibrary is a private collection of unread books. The concept was first mentioned by Lebanese-American scholar and author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book The Black Swan, where he describes the unique relationship Italian writer Umberto Eco had with books:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?”* and the others—a very small minority—who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary”…

The vastness of the unknown: “Building an antilibrary: the power of unread books.”

For inspiration: “7 Spectacular Libraries You Can Explore From Your Living Room.”

* Shakespeare, The Tempest

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As we cultivate curiosity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940, at approximately 11:00 am, that the first Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge collapsed as a result of wind-induced vibrations. Situated on the Tacoma Narrows in Puget Sound, near the city of Tacoma, Washington, the bridge had only been open for traffic a few months.  For those who missed it in high school physics:

Written by LW

November 7, 2020 at 1:01 am

“I just enjoy translating, it’s like opening one’s mouth and hearing someone else’s voice emerge”*…

 

The Highbrow Struggles of Translating Modern Children’s Books Into Latin.”

* Iris Murdoch

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As we try transliteration, we might send thoughtful birthday greetings to Umberto Eco; he was born on this date in 1932.  Most widely known as a novelist (primarily for his international best seller The Name of the Rose), Eco was also a literary critic, philosopher, and university professor highly-regarded in academic circles for his contributions to semiology.

An occasional translator, Eco once remarked, “translation is the art of failure.”

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Written by LW

January 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“A library implies an act of faith”*…

For almost 30 years Candida Höfer has photographed interiors, mostly representational spaces accessible to the public– staircases, lobbies, reading halls or exhibition spaces.  Rather than staging them, she captures them in as she finds them, with both discretion and humor.

Now, she’s trained her lens on libraries across Europe and the US: the State Archive in Naples (above, via), the Escorial in Spain, the Whitney Museum in New York, Villa Medici in Rome, the Hamburg University library, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, the Museo Archeologico in Madrid, the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, and many, many others.

Luxuriate in these temples of knowledge– and enjoy Umberto Eco’s exquisite introductory essay– in Libraries.

And on a lighter note, from Literary Man, “If Libraries Could Get Any Sexier“…

“What’s New, Pussycat?” (1965): Woody Allen, Romy Schneider, two ladders, and an open book.

* Victor Hugo

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As we remain quiet, please, we might spare a thought for playwright, poet, artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; he died on this date in 1832.  Probably best remembered these days for Faust, he was “the master spirit of the German people,” and, after Napoleon, the leading figure of his age.

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Written by LW

March 22, 2013 at 1:01 am

The art of failure*…

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From Matador Networks, “20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World,” from…

1. Toska
Russian – Vladimir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

to…

20. Saudade
Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.”  Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to saudade. (Altalang.com)

* “Translation is the art of failure.” – Umberto Eco

As we console ourselves that, as Robert Frost observed, “poetry is what gets lost in translation,” we might recall that Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky, author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamozov, and a master– perhaps the master– of “toska,” was born on this date in 1821 (in the “old style” calendar, adjusted to January 1 on the Julian calendar; his birth date is November 11 on the unadjusted Russian version of the Gregorian calendar.)

Dostoyevsky (source)

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