In der NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS erschien 1986 ein Artikel des italienischen Autors Italo Calviono: Why read the classics?
Aufgrund des 50 Jahresjubiläums bringt die Redaktion immer wieder eine Auswahl von Artikel aus vergangenen Jahren. Ein schöner Anlass, diesen bedeutsamen und lehrreichen Text von Calvino sich (wieder) vorzunehmen.
Let us begin with a few suggested definitions.
1) The classics are the books of which we usually hear people say: “I am rereading…” and never “I am reading….”
at least happens among those who consider themselves “very well read.”
It does not hold good for young people at the age when they first
encounter the world, and the classics as a part of that world.
reiterative prefix before the verb “read” may be a small hypocrisy on
the part of people ashamed to admit they have not read a famous book. To
reassure them, we need only observe that, however vast any person’s
basic reading may be, there still remain an enormous number of
fundamental works that he has not read.
Hands up, anyone who has
read the whole of Herodotus and the whole of Thucydides! And
Saint-Simon? And Cardinal de Retz? But even the great nineteenth-century
cycles of novels are more often talked about than read. In France they
begin to read Balzac in school, and judging by the number of copies in
circulation, one may suppose that they go on reading him even after
that, but if a Gallup poll were taken in Italy, I’m afraid that Balzac
would come in practically last. Dickens fans in Italy form a tiny elite;
as soon as its members meet, they begin to chatter about characters and
episodes as if they were discussing people and things of their own
acquaintance. Years ago, while teaching in America, Michel Butor got fed
up with being asked about Emile Zola, whom he had never read, so he
made up his mind to read the entire Rougon-Macquart cycle. He
found it was completely different from what he had thought: a fabulous
mythological and cosmogonical family tree, which he went on to describe
in a wonderful essay.
Read more in the NYRB