“Believe that Books will Never Disappear” is an essay by Thomas Carlyle, a 19th-century Scottish writer and historian. In this essay, Carlyle passionately defends the enduring significance of books in a rapidly changing world. He articulates his conviction that books, as repositories of human knowledge and wisdom, will always retain their relevance despite the advancements in technology and society. Read more 2nd PUC English Summaries.
Believe that Books will Never Disappear Summary
Believe that Books will Never Disappear Summary in English
This lesson presents excerpts from a face-to-face interview between Jorge Luis Borges and Roberto Alifano. Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, who became partially blind at the age of 55.
In this interview, Borges shares his views on the importance of ‘books’ in the era of globalised electronic communication. Incidentally, Borges shares his views/observations about a few other topics like poetry, metaphors and literature as well, besides expressing his feelings about his ‘mother’ and his ‘blindness’. Alifano, the interviewer, asks questions about each of the topics mentioned above and Borges expresses his views in response to them.
The interview begins with the first question, ‘What was your first literary reading?’ In reply, Borges tells him that the first literary work that he read was ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ in the English version. Then Borges tells his interviewer that he learned more from his father’s library than by high school or the university.
Alifano then asks Borges to speak about his mother Dona Leonor. Borges tells him that his mother was an extraordinary person who showed him a great deal of kindness in his life. Then he continues, telling the interviewer in a confessional tone that he feels guilty for not having been a happy man in order to have given his mother the happiness she deserved. He also feels that he should have shown a better understanding of his mother.
Then, he generalizes the issue stating that it is true of all children that when their mothers die, children feel that they had taken them for granted (while she was alive) like they do with the moon or the sun or the seasons and feel that they have abused their mothers. However, this truth does not dawn on such children before the death of their mother. Then Borges adds that his mother was an intelligent and gracious woman who had no enemies.
Then, Alifano asks Borges apologetically what blindness meant to him. Borges, in reply, tells him that blindness is a way of life not entirely unhappy. He adds that as a writer he generally believes that all persons must think that whatever happens to him or to her is a resource. He believes that all things have been given us for a purpose and an artist must feel that more intensely. Borges is of the opinion that all that happens to us, including humiliations, misfortunes, and embarrassments are given to us as raw material as clay so that we may shape our art.
Alifano endorses Borges’ idea quoting from Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. The lines quoted by Alifano are taken from this poem, in which the poet tells the reader that it is the Gods who make man’s life tragic so as to weave a song for future generations to sing. This idea is based on the belief that men write songs in order to soothe the mind when they recall their woes.
After listening to Alifano’s quote from ‘The Odyssey’, Borges adds a little more to highlight the same idea of man’s life being troubled by many undesirable events. Borges tells Alifano that in one of his poems he has said that ‘humiliation’, ‘misfortune’, and ‘discord’ were given to us that we may change them and using our miserable circumstances create works which last forever. Then he quotes from Goethe, “All that is near becomes far”. Here again, Borges is referring to the loss of his eyesight.
In the line quoted here, Goethe is referring to the evening twilight when the things closest to us seem to move away from our eyes. Borges is quoting this line to tell Alifano that the visible world has moved away from his eyes forever. Borges then adds that his eyesight has been replaced by many other things. Then he tells Alifano that it is his duty to accept blindness and still enjoy it as far as possible. Therefore, he tells Alifano that he still continues to pretend that he is not blind and buys books, to fill his house with.
Alifano, hearing him mention ‘Books’, asks Borges to speak about the theme of books. In reply, Borges tells Alifano that he had a very strange dream in which he had seen the library of Alexandria burning, its countless volumes attacked by flames. Then he asks Alifano whether he believes that his dream has any meaning. Alifano replies that it may have some meaning, but then continues his interview asking Borges whether he has ever thought of writing a book on the history of the ‘book’.
Borges tells him that he won’t be able to write such a book though it is an excellent idea. He wonders whether an eighty-three-year-old man can set such a project for himself. Incidentally, Borges tells him that he will keep it in his mind. Then Borges tells Alifano that Spengler has already made an effort in this regard in his ‘Decline of the West’.
In this book, Spengler has made a remarkable comment on books. Then Alifano refers to Borges’ comments (in one of his essays) about the words of Bernard Shaw, in which he has declared “Every book worth being re-read has been written by the spirit”.
Borges agrees with him and tells him that a book goes beyond its author’s intention, which may not be right. Borges declares that in every book there is a need for something more, which is not easy to understand. Then he gives the example of an ancient book. He tells Alifano that when one reads an ancient book one feels as though he or she was reading about all the time that has passed from the day it was written to his present day.
Borges concludes saying that a book always retains something sacred, something mortal, something magical which brings happiness. Then, Alifano asks Borges to define poetry. In reply, Borges says that poetry is something so intimate, and so essential that it cannot be defined without being oversimplified. If one attempts to define poetry it would be like attempting to define the colour yellow, love, and the fall of the leaves in autumn. Borges then states that poetry is not the poem but it is the aesthetic act, the poetic act that takes place when the poet writes it when the reader reads it and it always happens in a different manner. Then he adds and says that when the poetic act takes place, we become aware of it. He then concludes declaring that poetry is a magical, mysterious, and unexplainable, although not an incomprehensible, event.
He feels that the poet should be deemed to have failed if one does not feel the poetic event upon reading it. Alifano then adds telling Borges that the important thing in the art of poetry is finding the precise words. Borges agrees with him. He then states that precise words elicit the emotion. He quotes the line “This quiet dust was gentlemen and ladies” from Emily Dickinson’s poem to illustrate his statement.
Alifano then asks Borges to explain the concept of metaphors. Borges tells him in reply that true metaphors have been there in existence since the beginning of time. Then he tells him that he has occasionally thought of reducing all metaphors to five or six essential metaphors.
Borges is of the opinion that these essential metaphors are found in all literature, apart from many others which are whimsical. Borges then tells him that the poet has to discover metaphors, even though they may already exist.
Finally, Alifano asks Borges to comment on the statement “modern developments in communications will replace books with something more dynamic that will require less time than reading”.
Borges tells him that books will never disappear. Then, he declares that among the many inventions of man, the book is undoubtedly the most astounding, and all the others are only extensions of our bodies. He opines that the telephone is the extension of our voice; the telescope and the microscope are extensions of our sight, and the sword and the plough are extensions of our arms. He asserts that only the book is an extension of our imagination and memory.
Then Alifano asks Borges his reactions to his own statement, ‘Literature is a dream’. Borges assertively tells him.that it is true. He restates his statement ‘Literature is a dream’, and says that it is a ‘controlled dream’. Then he says that it is his belief that we owe literature almost everything we are; what we have been, and also what we will be and ends saying “Our past is nothing but a sequence of dreams.” He concludes remarking that there can be no difference between dreaming and remembering the past. Then he declares, “Books are the great memory of all centuries and their function is irreplaceable. If books disappear, history will disappear and surely the man would disappear”.
In conclusion, Thomas Carlyle’s essay, “I Believe that Books will Never Disappear,” reaffirms the timeless importance of books as conduits of human thought, culture, and civilization. Carlyle’s argument underscores the enduring power of literature to shape and enrich the human experience, highlighting its resilience in the face of technological evolution. He ultimately champions the enduring legacy of books as an indispensable part of our intellectual and cultural heritage.