Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Haunted Future

The future is haunted. It's something that I've known for a few years now. I first recognized this state of affairs while reading the English translation of Ivo Andrić's The Bridge on the Drina. I had had it on my shelves for a couple of years already before choosing it for a trip to western Germany.

The book was just so good that within the first hundred pages I felt certain that because of age and several other circumstances that it would be near impossible to read the novel a second time. It was the first time I remember being so piqued by the bittersweet closing in of time. I savored my time with the novel, knowing that it was probably not ever going to be repeated.

There actually really are few books I've read more than once. When you exclude the books I've taught or that played an important role in my research, the list becomes even scantier. Nobody cares, least of all me, now, that I read Being and Time, Martin Heidegger's analysis of human being as time, no less than three times in 2008. Yet it was the first, and only, time I read Andrić's book, which I can't even remember if it was before or after having read Being and Time, that attuned me more to the question of my own time and the shutting off of possibility. It was my reading of The Bridge on the Drina that showed me the abrupt retreat of a future that remains both unwritten and illegible.

Since then I've read other novels that have meant just as much to me if not more. And time's retreat grows ever sharper and more vivid. There are just so many hours in a day, a week, a life. And from the shit books I've read, even those I've read multiple times, I know I'll never get that time back. I can only shuffle toward the future surrounded by these ghosts from the past that are all the more ghostly for no longer showing themselves on my shelves.

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