In the April issue of First Things magazine, David Bentley Hart discusses divesting himself of an extensive library:
I knew I would never be able to amass the literally hundreds of thousands of volumes that Gladstone and Disraeli each left behind when they departed this life, but at its apogee my library was around 20,000 volumes, which in our day, and within the practical material constraints pressing on me, was a fairly estimable hoard. Some of the books were rare and beautiful, many were ordinary, a great many superfluous, but I clung to all of them like a miser guarding the heaps of gold coins kept in his vault.
. . . .
In any event, it is all gone now, except for a few jagged fragments. In 2014, a natural catastrophe of an insidiously furtive and unanticipated kind overtook both me and my library, and ultimately (though in agonizingly protracted stages) the latter had to be liquidated. The bereavement of losing nearly forty years of accumulated texts, however, was not nearly as great as I thought it would be (allowing for the possibility that I am still in a state of shock). It turns out that all those texts are still out there to be read, and that many of them I did not need anyway.
Dear me, I shall miser on.
But the bulk of the piece is a reading list recommendation for a friend based on the books he had. I’ve recreated the list here, with the usual items I’ve read in bold and items I have not read but are in my library in italics:
- J. A. Baker, The Peregrine and The Hill of Summer
- Sadegh Hedayat, The Blind Owl
- “Lady Sarashina,” As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams
- John Cowper Powys, A Glastonbury Romance
- Ẓahir-ud-Din Muḥammad Babur, The Baburnama
- Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Violins of Saint-Jacques
- Robert Walser, Jakob von Gunten
- Georges Rodenbach, Bruges-la-Morte
- The Ramakien
- Longus, Daphnis and Chloe
- Frederick Rolfe, Hubert’s Arthur
- Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Memories of the Future
- Pu Songling, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
- Murasaki Shikibu, The Diary of Lady Murasaki
- A. W. Kinglake, Eothen
- Gyula Krúdy, The Adventures of Sindbad
- The Kebra Nagast
- Imekanu (Matsu Kannari), Kutune Shirka
- Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversations
- Nguyen Du, The Tale of Kieu
- Jan Potocki, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
- Kalidasa, Śakuntala (Abhijñānaśākuntalam)
- José Maria de Eça de Queirós, The City and the Mountains
- Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas
- Ferdowsi (Abu’l-Qasim Ferdowsi Tusi), Shahnameh
- Antal Szerb, Journey by Moonlight
- Edwin Muir, The Complete Poems
- W. H. Mallock, The New Republic
- Victor Segalen, Stèles
- Kamo-no-Chōmei, Hojoki
That’s right: I’ve never even heard of most of the books listed, and they’re not the sort of thing that you find at book sales in Southwest Missouri (although, to be honest, you would be surprised at whose books you might find here).
The article has little tidbits about each, and although some look like they’re in the sort of vein my mother-in-law, the former English teacher, might like, only a few of them looked interesting to me. As you might expect, gentle reader, with my recent fascination with Eastern thought and history, those would be the classical Japanese works.