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Taken from The Adventures of the Soul by Nobel laureate Anatole France:

I would define a book as a work of magic whence escape all kinds of images to trouble the souls and change the hearts of men. Or, better still, a book is a little magic apparatus which transports us among the images of the past or amidst supernatural shades. Those who read many books are like the eaters of hashish. They live in a dream. The subtle poison that penetrates their brain renders them insensible to the real world and makes them the prey of terrible or delightful phantoms. Books are the opium of the Occident. They devour us. A day is coming on which we shall all be keepers of libraries, and that will be the end.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Litgirl01 says:

    Lovely post!!! 😉

  • Damyanti says:

    Payton and Scott, I agree with both of you. As an adult, I do.

    But as a child, I remember crying and being totally depressed for six months after I read the illustrated life of Christ.

    As a teen, I got into the world of books and got lost. I did live in a dream, because I entered the worlds created by Zola and Falubert, Maupassant and Maugham, by Tolstoy, Chekov and Dickens, by Hugo and Tolkien, by Sartre and Camus–and they devoured me. I did live in an unreal world. This went on into my honors in English, and then I quit reading for several years.

    When I came back to reading, I had changed, and so had the books. I could look at them and think all the things that you guys describe, but not without the memory of exactly how they were when I was younger.

  • The subtle poison that penetrates their brain renders them insensible to the real world and makes them the prey of terrible or delightful phantoms.

    That’s certainly a writer talking about books. I would agree with Payton Inkletter (love the name) that books expand and open us rather than isolate us. About good books, I will quote C. S. Lewis, “passion is present for the sake of imagination, and therefore, in the long run, for the sake of wisdom or spiritual health–the rightness and richness of man’s total response to the world.”

  • Wow, Anatole France certainly pushes the limits there on what a book is!

    A good book renders the reader more sensible to the real world, for we emerge from its embrace recharged with: hope hinged on dared possibilities; an exciting new perspective or a secret plan we might share with the author and our cabal benignant of fellow readers of that book; the insight that our very lives, including our reading time, can be spices to invigorate the pages of the infinite book supreme, the greatest whodunnit, the biggest bestseller, whose opening chapters reach back into past eternity, is being written every moment, and which will never conclude…