|Reader of Novels by Antoine Wiertz|
Between my mid teens and late twenties I read a great many novels. There really is no better way in which to explore the heads and hearts of other people, to discover their strengths and weaknesses, their vices and virtues, their ambitions and motivations, their doubts and desires, their hopes and longings, their faults and failings, their dreams and aspirations, their innermost thoughts and feelings, their secret interior spaces.
Some of the best novels nudge us towards thinking about ethics and morality, and may help us work out our own personal mode of living. They can also be historical documents, capturing a society, a culture or a world of a quite specific time and place.
Although I still read novels, I don't read as many now as I used to, as my scope of interest has widened as I've got older; and I now intersperse novels with books of biography, poetry, travel, natural history, philosophy, religion and spirituality.
However, there are many novels I would still like to read — too many. I still haven't finished Tolstoy's War And Peace, Proust's In Search Of Lost Time or Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. I love all these epic works, but sometimes other things just seem more pressing.
Reading novels makes you feel more human and less alone, I believe. It's a way of linking hands, albeit temporarily, with the rest of humanity, and realising that other people are quite like oneself, with the same problems, the same inadequacies — and the same desire for transcendence.