Friday, December 26, 2008

And Yet the Books

I am currently reading The Time of their Lives by Al Silverman which I gratefully received as a Christmas gift yesterday. It is a memoir and paean to the "golden age of great American publishers" and is proving to be a delightful read. I will have further thoughts after I finish reading the book but did not want to wait to share the epigraph for the book which is a poem by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz. It reminds me of why I love his poetry and books as well.


And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
"We are," they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine an earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it's still a strange pageant,
Women's dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.

Translated from the Polich by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass (from The Collected Poems of Czeslaw Milosz, 1931-1987. HarperCollins Publishers.

The Time of Their Lives: the golden age of great American book publishers, their editors and authors by Al Silverman. St. Martin's Press, New York. 2008.


J. Rogelio Rodríguez said...

Very interesting your profile... I see more than one similarities on mine (Webern,Schoemberg... Thomas Pynchon).

Best regards - Rogelio, from Spain.

James said...

Thanks for the comment. I also highly admire Musil and Marai among authors on your list.

candyschultz said...

Ah the books on the shelves. They are the fruit of the mind. I love them - and Milosz. Happy Holidays.