To re-read or not to re-read?

Re-reading in progress: “The fencing master”, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Reading is my passion, since I was a child. I have around a thousand books, here and in Spain. Not many, but neither few; unfortunately, time is limited, I have the vice of needing at least seven hours sleep every night, and as you all know, I’m distRActed with other things, movies and tv series.

I used to consider the re-reading as a missed chance to read something new and different. There were very few books that I’ve read twice, one of them being Marguerite Yourcenar’s “Memories of Hadrian”. But, after starting to appreciate the great XIXth century classics (Hugo, Tolstoi, Dumas), I felt like a real pity to be left with that Stockholm syndrome of the enjoyed reading without any further chance to come back again to live for some days with those characters I’ve loved. That’s why I’ve read thrice “War and Peace”, or twice “The Count of Montecristo”; I have realised that the re-reading is, most of times, better than the first one. Once you “know” or at least remember vaguely what happen, you can enjoy more the reading itself, the use the author makes of certain expressions and the writing technique.

My favourite writer, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, has been (very) cruel in his last novel “Hombres buenos” (Good men), making references to novels that supposedly the narrator of that story has written, but that recall titles that he has written for real. So there I was, wondering if I read for real Richelieu’s shadow or The stab, while checking his novels in my library (not an easy task to find anything in the three-row layers of paperbacks and hardbacks – I definitely NEED a bigger one) to realise with horror that I erased completely from my mind “La sombra del águila” (The shadow of the eagle). I sighed, relieved, when flicking through its pages I remembered that it was the story of the batallion of Spanish “voluntary” soldiers that in Napoleon’s russian campaing were thought to have made an heroic attack when in reality they were trying to desert to the Russians.

Therefore, I have made a decision: to re-read when I feel like without regrets. When my time will come I will surely have missed many good books but at least I will remember some of them. I am re-reading now, after remembering that I had forgotten it, “El maestro de esgrima” (The fencing master) and it is such a joy to read again paragraphs like this…

Se pasó la mano por el cabello blanco. No se arrepentía de haber vivido; había amado y había matado, jamás emprendió nada que deshonrase el concepto que tenía de sí mismo; atesoraba recuerdos suficientes para justificar su vida, aunque constituyesen éstos el único patrimonio del que disponía.

Omero Antoniutti and Assumpta Serna as Jaime Astarloa and Adela de Otero in the filmed version of “The fencing master”


7 thoughts on “To re-read or not to re-read?

  1. I’m a devoted rereader, mostly because when I was a kid our access to truly new books was relatively limited — weekly library trips to the local library, but books we wanted to read were comparatively scarce. I probably read Little Women 50 times as a child … or more. Love the pleasures of the re-read.

  2. Oooh, there is a film of “El Maestro”? Yes, so many moments of delight in this book. I am enjoying the elegiac tone of the Master’s thoughts, when he contemplates the end of the Age of Honor. He looks at the boys and says “I don’t envy you the wars you will fight.” And they are the age who will end up fighting WWI.

    1. Yes, there is, and it is one of the few good adaptations of Mr. Reverte’s novels (he’s been quite unlucky with them). The Astarloa I imagine (and also Juan de Zárate, his last male protagonist), has Peter Capaldi’s face, I can’t see Mr. Antoniutti as the master.
      All “Reverte men” have this kind of skeptically bitter-sad aura; I guess it’s due also to the fact that Mr. Reverte has been war-correspondent for more than twenty years, and that he’s seen the human race at their worst in Africa or in the Balkans. I have made a research yesterday in internet and I have not found an English translation of “El tango de la guardia vieja”, that I am sure you will adore if you have the chance to read.

      “A gun is not a weapon, but an impertinence” 🙂

      1. Yes, I noticed that quote too! Adela just had her fencing “examination” and passed with flying colors. I’m loving this 🙂

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