This was a militant age, when no book was allowed to enter without

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This was a militant age, when no book was allowed to enter without the certification
that I had not read it. Thus I might never have acquired a library extensive enough
to be worthy of the name we, if there had not been an inflation. Suddenly the
emphasis shifted; books acquired real value, or, at any rate, were difficult to obtain.
Walter Benjamin
Adorno dream Frankfurt, 12 November 1955
Theodor W. Adorno Dream Notes. Trans. Rodney Livingston. London: Polity. 2007,
57-58
I dreamt I had to take an exam for a diploma in sociology. It went badly in empirical
sociology. I was asked how many columns there are in a punch card, and, as a pure
guess, I said twenty. Of course, that was wrong. . . . Taking pity on my ignorance, the
examiner then announced that he would question me on cultural history. He showed
me a German passport of 1879. It ended with the farewell greeting: “Now out into
the world, my little wolf!” This motto appeared in gold leaf. I was asked to explain
this. I took a deep breath and explained that the use of gold for such purposes went
back to Russian or Byzantine icons. The idea of the prohibition on images had been
taken very seriously in those parts; only gold was exempted. Because it was the
purest metal, an exception was made for it. Its use in illustrations was followed by
baroque ceilings. And the gold lettering in the passport was to be the last vestige of
a great tradition. The examiners were delighted by the profundity of my knowledge
and I passed the exam.
Los Angles, September 1948
In emigration, I repeatedly dreamt, with variations that I was at home in Oberrad,
even after the Hitler dream had begun. I was writing in a blue exercise book like the
ones from high school. What I was writing was a long treatise on music. It was the
1932 essay “On the Social Situation of Music,” which somehow merged with the
Philosophy of Modern Music. I knew I had sent the whole manuscript (of which I had
no copy) to a music journal (the Stuttgarter?), where it was accepted for publication,
but it could not appear because of the Nazis, and then had gone missing. The source
of anxiety in this dream was the idea that I had to find the manuscript because it
contained the greatest importance for my project. . . . Once I finished the Philosophy
of Modern Music the dream ceased to recur. 48
Half-read books once replaced among the splendid rows of books in our library will
never be read to the end. Indeed, it is enough for some sensitive souls to buy a book
whose beginning they like, and then never pick it up again.
Robert Musil, “Monuments,” in Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, 66.
My dear reader . . . I pronounce the matchless prophecy that two-thirds of the book’s
few readers will quit before they are halfway through, which can also be expressed
in this way—out of boredom they will stop reading and throw the book away. . . . My
dear reader--but to whom am I speaking? Perhaps no one is left at all. . . . Alas, alas,
alas! How fortunate that there is no reader who reads all the way through, and if
there were any, the harm from being allowed to shift for oneself when it is the only
thing he wishes, is, after all, like the punishment of the men of Molbo who threw the
eel into the water. Dixt [I have spoken].
Soren Kierkegaard, "Letter to the
Reader from frater Taciturnus”
in Stages on Life's Way Trans
Edward V. Hong and Edna H. Hong.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1988,
398; 485; 494
“And now let the sympathetic reader judge of our feeling when, in place of the same
Autobiography with “fullest insight,” we find—Six considerable PAPER-BAGS, carefully
sealed, and marked successively, in gilt China ink, with the symbols of the Six southern
Zodiacal signs, beginning at Libra; in the inside of which sealed Bags, lie miscellaneous
masses of Sheets, and oftener Shreds and Snips, written in Professor Teufelsdroekh’s
scarce-legible cursiv-schrift [handwriting]; and treating of all imaginable things under
the Zodiac and above it, but of his personal history only at rate intervals, and then in the
most enigmatic manner. Whole facsicles [separately published installments of a printed
work] there are, wherein the Professor, or as he here speaking in the third person calls
himself, “the Wanderer,” is not once named. . . . On certain sheets stand Dreams,
authentic or not, while the circumjacent waking actions are omitted. Anecdotes,
oftenest without date or place or time, fly loosely on separate slips, like Sybilline leaves.
Interspersed also are long purely Autobiographical delineations, yet wihtout connexion,
without recognizable coherence; so superfluously minute, they almost remind us of
“P.P. Clerk of this Parish” thus does famine alternate with waste.” , 60-61;
Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resortus [Tailor Patched], or Editing Your Way out of a Paper Bag
Adorno dream Frankfurt, 12 November 1955
Theodor W. Adorno Dream Notes. Trans. Rodney Livingston. London: Polity. 2007,
57-58
I dreamt I had to take an exam for a diploma in sociology. It went badly in empirical
sociology. I was asked how many columns there are in a punch card, and, as a pure
guess, I said twenty. Of course, that was wrong. . . . Taking pity on my ignorance, the
examiner then announced that he would question me on cultural history. He showed
me a German passport of 1879. It ended with the farewell greeting: “Now out into
the world, my little wolf!” This motto appeared in gold leaf. I was asked to explain
this. I took a deep breath and explained that the use of gold for such purposes went
back to Russian or Byzantine icons. The idea of the prohibition on images had been
taken very seriously in those parts; only gold was exempted. Because it was the
purest metal, an exception was made for it. Its use in illustrations was followed by
baroque ceilings. And the gold lettering in the passport was to be the last vestige of
a great tradition. The examiners were delighted by the profundity of my knowledge
and I passed the exam.
Los Angles, September 1948
In emigration, I repeatedly dreamt, with variations that I was at home in Oberrad,
even after the Hitler dream had begun. I was writing in a blue exercise book like the
ones from high school. What I was writing was a long treatise on music. It was the
1932 essay “On the Social Situation of Music,” which somehow merged with the
Philosophy of Modern Music. I knew I had sent the whole manuscript (of which I had
no copy) to a music journal (the Stuttgarter?), where it was accepted for publication,
but it could not appear because of the Nazis, and then had gone missing. The source
of anxiety in this dream was the idea that I had to find the manuscript because it
contained the greatest importance for my project. . . . Once I finished the Philosophy
of Modern Music the dream ceased to recur. 48
He took a book, turned over the leaves, felt the paper, examined the gilding, the
cover, the leters, the ink, the folds, and the arrangement for the word Finish. Then
he changed its place, put it on a higher shelf, and remained for entire hours looking
at its title and form.
He went next to the manuscripts, for they were his cherished children. He took, the
oldest, the must used, the dirtiest; he looked at its parchment with love and
happiness; he smelt its holy and venerable dust; then his nostrils filled with joy and
pride, and smile came upon his lips. . . . 11-12
He was happy, seated among all these books, letting his eyes roam over lettered
backs, the worn pages, the yellowed parchment. He loved knowledge as a blind man
loves the day. No! It was not learning that he loved; it was its expression. He loved a
book because it was a book; he loved its odor, its form, its title. What he loved in a
manuscript was its illegible date, the bizarre and strange Gothic characters, the
heavy gilding which loaded its drawings. It was its pages covered with dust,--dust of
which he breathed the sweet and tender perfume with delight. It was this pretty
word Finis, surrounded with two cupids, carried on a ribbon, supporting themselves
on a fountain, engraved on a tomb or reposing in a basket of flowers between the
roses, the golden apples and the blue bouquets. 12-14
Gustave Flaubert's Oeuvres de Jeunesse "Bibliomanie."
Dates, place names, formats, previous owners, bindings, and the like: all these details
must tell him something –not as dry, solated facts, but as a harmonious whole. . . To
the reader of a catalogue, the book itself must speak—or possibly its previous
ownership, if the provenance of the copy has been established.
For years . . . my library consisted of no more than two or three shelves which increased
only by inches each year. This was a militant age, when no book was allowed to enter
without the certification that I had not read it. 488
The book borrower of real stature whom we envisage here proves himself an inveterate
collector of books not so much by the fervor with which he guards his borrowed
treasures and by the deaf ear he turns to all reminders of the everyday world of legality
as by his failure to read these books. If my experience may serve as evidence, a man is
more likely now and then to return a borrowed book than to read it. . . Experts will
bear me out when I say this is the oldest thing in the world. Walter Benajmin, Unpacking
My Library, 488
Gerard de Nerval's The Salt Smugglers (Les Faux Sauliniers, or The Salt Counterfeiters) on
publication and the bioarchive. Jean Paul Friedrich Richter's Life of Quintus Fixlein
(which, as I
mentioned, Carlyle translated). Nerval is by far the funniest of the
lot. Sieburth has a wonderful postscript linking the book to 1848 and
to Foucault's accounts of the prison and the author-fiction. Sieburth
forgets that MF's own historicism committed him to anecdotes and even
to fiction--Borges, above all. Nerval claims to be trying to write the biography of an
abbey who escaped from the Bastille, not an historical or serial novel. He visits the
National Archives, booksellers, private libraries all to find a copy of a book that would
have been his source but that he decided not to buy at a Frankfurt
book fair.
Registrars and archivists . . . were not supposed to read what they administered: they
were to provide file and shelf marks to prepare for their archival reuse. The first
Prussian archivist responsible for registering files . . . was also the last secretary of the
chancery to peruse records. He stood at the decoupling of archiving and
administering. For archival purposes, he was the very last to read the files that he
registered, so that no one had to read them after him. Vismann, 99
Jean Paul Friedrich Richters’s Life of Quintus Fixlein—it’s a story about an editor, the
narator, who wants to tell the biography of a German professor named Hofrath
Hueschrecke [“Devil’s shit, in English”] who never actually taught a class or published
anything.
Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (Oxford Classics) ed. Kerry McSweeney and Peter Sabor.
How the Hofrath Hueschrecke is to furnish biographical data, in this case, nay be a
curious question; the answer of which, however, is happily not our concern, but his. To
us it appeared, after repeated trial, that in Weissnichtwo [know not where], from the
archives or memories of the best-informed classes, no Biography of Tuefelsdroeckh was
to be gathered; not so much as a false one. 13-14
So being a Christian means something different than having a birth certificate lying
in the drawer, producing it when one is a student or wants a wedding; something
else than going through life with a birth certificate in one’s waistcoat. . . . An eternity,
the hereafter and the solemn earnest of the Judgment (in which, be it noted, it will
be decided by myself was a Christian, not whether in the capacity of guardian I saw
to it that my children were baptized) are transformed into a street setting or a
passport office where the dead come running with their certificates, yes, from the
parish clerk. Then let it be ten times true that baptism is a divine passport to
eternity, but if heedlessness and worldliness want to use it as a permit, is it that too?
Baptism, indeed, is not the slip of paper issued by the parish clerk—and on which he
sometimes makes mistakes. 308-09.
Kierkegaard, Soren. (1846. Concluding Unscientific Postscript Ed. Alistair Hannay.
(Cambridge UP, 2009).
Intimately not obscurely, that should the present Editor feel disposed to undertake a
Biography of Teufelsrockh, he, Hofrath Heusschreke, has it in his power to furniish the
requisite documents. 10
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