Mr Palomar is a collection of philosophical meditations, as beautifully written as they are stylistically inventive. This is a quotation about books and about life, and how we construct our own narrative. But it particularly appeals to me because I’ve always been fascinated by how a book can mean something completely different to you depending on when you read it. When I first tried to read Gwyneth Lewis’s Sunbathing in the Rain I gave up after a couple of chapters. Her writing about her experiences with depression was simply too raw, too painfully real, for me to continue. When I returned to it later, I found it full of hope. That second time, it quite honestly changed my life.
“A person’s life consists of a collection of events, the last of which could also change the meaning of the whole, not because it counts more than the previous ones but because once they are included in a life, events are arranged in an order that is not chronological but rather corresponds to an inner architecture. A person, for example, reads in adulthood a book that is important for him, and it makes him say, ‘How could I have lived without having read it!’ and also, ‘What a pity I did not read it in my youth!’ Well, these statements do not have much meaning, especially the second, because after he has read that book, his life becomes the life of a person who has read that book, and it is of little importance whether he read it early or late, because now his life before that reading also assumes a form shaped by that reading.” – Italo Calvino, Mr Palomar – The meditations of Palomar: Learning to be dead