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Book As Unit of Time

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This week’s question:

What book took you the longest to read, and do you feel it was the content or just the length that made it so?

How do you measure a year? I measure by the number of books read, usually around 80. A book a week is a practical goal although the size, the difficulty, and the writing style could deviate from this schedule. Wolf Hall took a while because of its complexity and multiple layers of stories; The Fountainhead its sheer length. The one book that comprises of both attributes, and thus rendering it a time-consuming read, is The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch. It took me over a month, on and off, over many cups of coffee. Not a widely known book, let alone read. It revolves about the poet’s wish to burn his masterpiece, The Aeneid, and creates out of his signified keen senses and heightened perceptions a rich vision, with full actuality, the religious, philosophical and political impulses of the time. It is arduous in reading, strenuous in contemplating the richly lyrical prose. Woven and sifted throughout are reflections and perceptions of Virgil’s febrile yet lucid thoughts in such rocking rhythms that illuminate, to the full actuality, the macabre sensation of the drifting journey on which the poet is being carried by the bark of death.


9 Responses

  1. I can’t say which book took me the longest to read, but Toni Morrison usually manages to keep my normal speed in check. It took me a week to finish Paradise.

  2. Don Quixote took me a month to get through and then there were the notes that accompanied it and discussed the translation. I loved it but it did feel good to finish it.

  3. Anna Flipping Karenina. I have never in my life spent so long reading a book. It took me about a year – I’d stop and read other things along the way because I just couldn’t handle that book. I decided to read it because after an undergrad degree in English and a semester of grad school without having it on the curricula, I felt it was something I *should* do.

    After peasants and more peasants and an obnoxious character I cared absolutely nothing about for what felt like 10,000 pages, I was thrilled to be finished with it. 🙂

    • Interesting you mention Anna Karenina, which I find to be both engrossing and entertaining. War and Peace is the one I trudged through, especially on the parts about farming techniques.

  4. Marcel Proust took me an awful long time to read. Possible because his whole series (A la recherche du temps perdu) was published in 2 volumes and you actually read 7 or 8 books in one go.
    I thorougly enjoyed reading Proust! Slow books are ‘my kinda thing’.

  5. I’d be interested to read The Death of Virgil. Having tried to slog through a bad translation of the Aenid a few years ago I am more than curious about this story.

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