It was hard to sieve out books that have not only fascinated me but left a lasting imprint as well. After some thinking, I came up with a list below. It looks like a formula of me, where symbols are names of books.
Here you go.
- The Bible was the first and the strongest influence in my life. I grew up with those stories and I’ve read them in all kinds of forms: from a weighty children’s Bible with glossy pictures, a huge tome with Duerer’s prints and, finally, a grown-ups’ version in black leather binding with a simple Protestant cross on top. All its stories were true for me, as were true Greek myths or fairy-tales by Hans Christian Andersen. Miracles were my staple and it surprised me, when people found them hard to believe. To believe for me was far easier and much more fascinating.
- In my teenage years R.L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island became my pillow book. I’ve read it ten times, at least, and every time I drew an immense pleasure out of it. It woke up in me hunger for adventure and discovery, a longing for unknown lands.
- Plato, The Republic. I’ve read it in the first year of my studies in the university. What impressed me there was the story about a cave: a group of people sits around a fire in a cave and sees shadows dancing on its walls. They think that shadows are the reality but, as one of the characters indicates, they are only a reflection of the reality outside. Outside? Hmmm…. That sounded interesting.
- Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf pointed me in the direction of my own inner magic theater. From Steppenwolf rose my interest towards C.G. Jung and psychoanalysis. Individuation process and the quest became my subjects of interest. I even wrote papers on them but, funnily, had a practical experience of all of it much, much later. When a year ago I visited the house where Hesse lived and worked, in Switzerland, it was a kind of personal pilgrimage for me.
- Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. I’ve read Camus during my studies and a grain of blissful dissatisfaction with my student’s existence was sown. If I had to push that stone up that hill intermittently, I thought, I’d rather start drawing some pleasure out of it.
- Henry Miller, Sexus, Nexus, Plexus trilogy. Surprisingly it was Miller and not Kerouac, whose writing I’ve got to know before Miller’s, who impressed me most. I was fascinated with his guts or, at least, with the guts of the character in his novels, his openness to the world and life around, his grit and his being able to plunge into life full speed and then stand back and write it all down. During hard times I have always had an image of penniless Henry Miller in front of my eyes, still managing to get everything out of it.
- Tove Jansson, Moomintroll stories represent for me a picture of true friendship. I associated myself generously with Snufkin, a lone adventurer leading a nomadic life-style. Wide brimmed hat didn’t fit me and it was a disaster, so I tried smoking pipe instead.
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Brothers Karamazov was a hard piece to swallow. For me, this book is about Love, and at that time I was actively learning about it in practice. It showed me the wealth I had in me and its powers.
- If Dostoyevsky was about Love, Antoine de Saint-Exuperi’s Little Prince was about responsibility. Later, when I discovered a child in me anew, there appeared a warm feeling of closeness to Exuperi’s child-prince.
- Anais Nin, A Spy in the House of Love became for me a door into my feminine sexuality. I think, after this book I started truly enjoying the difference and interplay between feminine and masculine.
Well, dear T., that’s how it is. The list lacks titles on Buddhist philosophy and Hinduism. Both of them have influenced me a lot but in a different way: they didn’t open my eyes onto any fact or planted some ideas into me but rather served as a magic kick into practice and experimentation that includes our rare but productive meetings as well.
See you soon! But oh, yes, I remember that joke of yours, the one with a grain of truth: that you are happier when I don’t visit you, because it means that I’m doing well on my own.