The Black Swan

 

Both Huet and Bayle were erudites and spent their lives reading. Huet, who lived into his nineties, had a servant follow him with a book to read aloud to him during meals and breaks and thus avoid lost time. He was deemed the most read person in his day. Let me insist that erudiction is important to me. It signals genuine intellectual curiosity. It accompanies an open mind and the desire to probe the ideas of others. Above all, an erudite can be dissatisfied with his own knowledge, and such dissatisfaction is a wonderful shield against Platonicity, the simplifications of the five-minute manager, or the philistinism of the overspecialized scholar. Indeed, scholarship without erudition can lead to disasters. pg. 48

 

For Yevgenia Krasnova, a person could love one book, at most a few -beyond this was a form of promiscuity. Those who talk about books as commodities are inauthentic; just as those who collect acquaintances can be superficial in their friendships. A novel you like resembles a friend. You read it and reread it, getting to know it better. Like a friend, you accept it the way it is; you do not judge it. Montaigne was asked “why” he and the writer Etienne de la Boétie were friends -the kind of question people ask you at a cocktail party as if you knew the answer, or as if there were an answer to know. It was typical of Montaigne to reply, “Parce que c’était lui, parce que c’était moi” (because it was him and because I am me.” Yevgenia once even walked out on a schoolteacher because he analyzed that book and thus violated her rule. One does not sit idle listening as people wax analytical about your friends. A very stubborn schoolchild she was. pg. 92

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