This began as part of one of those catching-up phone calls you do around the holidays: we started with the Plague, of course (who doesn’t, these days?) and at some point, mercifully enough, we found ourselves discussing To Read Lists instead.
And the sad fact that there is never enough time to read new things – never mind reread. And yet, the yearning is there – and, before we knew it, we were sharing two very different lists of rereading wishes.
And I thought, well, why not? So here is a very short version of my list: the books I’d love to read again, had I but world enough, and time…
- Golding’s To The End of the Earth, the whole trilogy. Conrad aside, perhaps my favourite nautical stories – devoured over three rather breathless days and three nights, once upon a time, in my College room in Pavia. Would it still capture me the way it did back then, I wonder?
- A Dead Man in Deptford. The one book by Burgess that I really, really love. Of course it helps that it’s about Kit Marlowe – but the language, the dialogues (Kit and, maybe, God in the cathedral at Rheims!), the feeling of a whirling, colourful, dangerous world…!
- Robert Graves’s Count Belisarius. This Barbarian general, more faithful to the Empire than the Byzantines themselves, and his loyalty so ill-rewarded… So very much my kind of story, that it could have been written for me. And how I detested Antonina!
- Barnaby Rudge. Hardly my favourite Dickens – and yet… Well, perhaps not all of it, but certain things, like the angry crowd storming Newgate… I remember coming up for air from that particular scene, with the feeling of smelling smoke. And perhaps this one I shouldn’t reread at all, because expecting this same kind of intensity from a rereading may very well be too much.
- A Room with a View. My favourite Forster, thoroughly charming, and the first book I bought myself the day after moving to Cardiff, as a therapy for homesickness.
- Yourcenar’s The Abyss. I read this one as a schoolgirl, some thirty years ago, and remember a gloomy atmosphere, an unquiet hero, a sense or urgency… Come to think of it, could I make it my French read for this year?
- Bryher’s The Player’s Boy. Actually, this one is a relatively recent read – but the sense of a fading world, the missed chances, the irreparable regrets… what can I say? We are all sentimental in some way, aren’t we?
- Ronald Blythe’s The Assassin, for the gorgeous writing, the story, and yet another doomed dreamer of a hero. Hm… do I detect a pattern here?
- Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog. Something a tad more light-hearted, for a change – with intricate time-travel, future historians at work, and lovable characters. Oh – and cats.
- Gösta Berling’s Saga, by Selma Lagerlöf. I read this one in an Italian translation, in one sitting… well, two actually, during a train journey to Cortona and back. Bleak and powerful, and I wonder about the original. Swedish is out of the question, of course – but still.
There. Ten of them, and it’s just the iceberg’s tip, and only the novels. There are separate lists for non-fiction, and for poetry, and for theatre, and anyway this leaves out the ones I do reread now and then, in their entirety – Lord Jim to name one – or in bits…
So yes, I’m rather afraid that, were I to yield to the rereading itch, I’d end up with no time for anything new. And this is why, for the most part, I do my best to resist.
But what about you, o Readers? Do you reread? What do you reread? What would you reread, if you had but world enough – and, especially, time?