I did like books before. But it was love when I found some old books and realized what this can be to the world, it is more than just entertainment. It’s history.
History was by far my favorite class at school, from early stages when we spoke about Chile’s discovery (my country) I loved explorers, when we studied the ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. Fell in love with the Renaissance and enjoy reading about the illustration process. After each class I used to get to my school’s library to research on some topics I enjoyed and get a deeper knowledge on some of the most interesting characters of the ages. I red about Voltaire, Rousseau, Marx, Hitler, JFK and Churchill and I got to understand the relevance of history books.
I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library” – Jorge Luis Borges
As part of the IB (International Baccalaureate) we studied the rise and fall of communism in western society and so I needed to read something about the context for the cold war between the USA and URSS. I went to the same book as usual but I thought the information wasn’t enough to write an essay so I searched deep into my school’s library until I found an old Larousse, my thought process was if it is older then maybe information is more relevant, therefore I get something closer to a first font. I went to the glossary to search for key components such as World War II or the divided Germany but to my surprise I didn’t find anything. I was surprised such an event wasn’t even mentioned in a Larousse, so I went back to the first page and discovered it was a Larousse from 1905. So I swapped the book to keep my search.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin
WAIT WHAT!? Are you kidding me!? What the hell is a 1905 encyclopedia doing in a Punta Arenas’s School Library!? I was amazed by this and start looking for any information it had, the last big events registered were the Italian and German unification that’s the second half of the XIX century. I started to read every part to see if the information I had was different, what was known about nationalism and did it say something about a possible big war in the following years? Not even World War I was a thing yet; all they knew was that countries were growing strong and independent with some focus on the UK, France and the Prussian side. Nothing was spoken about any alliances or a world division between the future protagonists of the disasters. Reading this was like going into the mind of your grand (grand) grandfather and ask him about the weather or what’s going on? What are you up to? Are you excited to join the army? This was like an out of time conversation between me and whoever team wrote the Larousse then
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ― Charles William Eliot
Now imagine this happening before some huge impact events and the relevance of old books for historians. Try to remember the time before 9/11 and how did American literature changed forever after it, there must be stats about how much was written on the two last months of 2001 about the same topic. Was xenophobia accepted? Did the USA break every code? Did we push something we might regret today? Imagine economy books pre 1929 or to make it more contemporary before 2008, looking at the bright stats and the embellishment of neo-liberalism as the way to reach the American dream. “Look at how we are growing; we can keep growing strong forever”. The realization that any experience with old books is kind of a crash of cultures was eye opening for me; it was like relieving the past in the most objective way possible. An old book can be like talking to your grandparents again. HELL! Even your grandparents might have written a book, about anything, maybe your granny was the female George Orwell and expressed with ink.
“We read to know we’re not alone.” ― William Nicholson
Books are so amazing they can transfer any experience or thought. Maybe you wrote a diary once because you were scared and didn’t know what to do but hide from the terror itself. Maybe you didn’t know how to describe isolation so you described it as a human-cockroach. Maybe you wanted to defeat your rival so badly in war that you created the best American soldier possible and drew it. Maybe you wanted to scare people with their own guilt and so you hided a beating heart under the floor. Maybe you wanted to believe in magic but people tell you it was all over, so you personified an Old Fashioned Crazy Warrior and make him fight windmills with nothing but glory to reach. Maybe this world wasn’t enough, so you created The Shire and wonderful adventures. Maybe the future was bright and you sent a man twenty thousand league under the sea and around the world in eighty days. Maybe the future was dark and you lied about a brave new world or your perspective on the eighties. Maybe you didn’t like what you see and thought some pigs were more equals than others.
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” ― Stephen King
You might be a Netflix native, a cinephile, a comic-con regular, an anime fan, a gamer, but there’s something that neither of those platforms can reply about books yet and that’s history. The Bible on its own can be enough proof about God’s existence. That is power on a plain combination of ink, paper and ideas/facts. Imagine how much history was lost on the books burned by Hitler, how much is hidden on the libraries around the world, how much you can learn from every edition of the same book (which is a topic on its own). The magic on books – as a fine wine – relies on how it can age. You can have a pretty huge best-seller saga in Twilight or The Hunger Games, but will it age the same way as Tolkien’s or CS Lewis? We will found out in ten, twenty and sixty years forward, when our children find us reading Harry Potter and ask us “After all this time?”
“The best books… are those that tell you what you know already.” ― George Orwell