This Saturday morning, after a long week at work, I woke up at five after going to bed at 6 the previous night thinking that I’d wake up two hours later so I could do some lifting at a nearby gym, only to be woken up by my alarm clock set at 5 this morning. After making coffee, I answered some emails, watched a Youtube debate on power between the then young Chomsky and the virtually ageless Foucault.
Then I saw sitting sadly on the corner of my table a mangled copy of Crime and Punishment. I took pity and held it like a mother holding his son’s wounded body in war. The previous sentence is an exaggeration.
Then an urge to repair took hold of me. Obsessively.
I bought this copy six years ago from a bookstore near Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. The bookstore was on the second floor of a building whose ground floor was used by an old man selling birds. Along with titles in Vietnamese as well as books translated in the Vietnamese are Wordsworth Classics. I bought this book by Dostoevsky and Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary for 50,000.
Since then, the guilt-ridden Raskolnikov became one of my favorite literary characters.
I stroked my copy like how I would stroke that cat our family had had when I was only 12, with care. I glued the spine together and scotch-taped the pages that needed scotch taping.
I do not have any emotional attachment to my books. I keep those I already read because I have hope that someday my younger brother or sister would pick them up, read them, and discover a universe that I inhabited while reading them.
Or, I keep them because someday, when I become tired of all the prerequisites of living, I shall escape from all these with my books that need repairing, a pair of scissors, a roll of scotch tape, and the ever reliable Elmer’s glue.