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Read so you know the world

Mar 17 2017

Libyan author Hisham Matar offers an inspiring ode to the power of books in The New York Times:

"Whenever I was encouraged by my elders to pick up a book, I was often told, 'Read so as to know the world.' And it is true; books have invited me into different countries, states of mind, social conditions and historical epochs; they have offered me a place at the most unusual gatherings....

How many times, and in ways that did not seem to require my consent, have I suddenly and in my own bed found myself to be Russian or French or Japanese? How many times have I been a peasant or an aristocrat? How many times have I been a woman? I have been free and without liberty, gay, disabled, old, loved and loathed....

"This is why literature is the greatest argument for the universalist instinct, and this is why literature is intransigent about its liberty. It refuses to be enrolled, regardless of how noble or urgent the project. It cannot be governed or dictated to. It is by instinct interested in conflicting empathies, in men and women who are running into their own hearts, in doubt and contradictions. Which is why, without even intending to, and like a moon to the night, it disrupts the totalitarian narrative. What it reveals about our human nature is central to the conversation today."

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