World Book Day

A book is a curious object. Sometimes it's like a window through which the last rays of sunlight before nightfall shine through to illuminate an old family photo in a forgotten corner of the house: on a page we find, all of a sudden, our own memories. Some other times, it is that same ray of light that allows us to see the road that leads away from our home and accompanies us towards an uncertain future. Like the tide, which rises little by little along the wide beach, so too the reading of a good book patiently fills our soul. Yet there are also books that are like a stone that suddenly falls on our head and leaves an inner echo for weeks; a few words are enough to break the most petrified gaze.

On sleepless nights books are the only boards that keep us afloat in a raging ocean, for they are the dreams of those who are awake. And when we sleep they watch over us from the shelves of our rooms and let their joys and worries fall upon our faces. Like a bridge that is about to fall down, we also move carefully through its pages until we reach another life that we know does not belong to us and yet we feel it is too close. A book is made of gestures, breath and heartbeats. Books are songs that we learned as children and that we hum to convince ourselves that we are still the same as always: each book assures us that we are alive. But there are also books that rise before our eyes like thick shadows that reveal to us in their figures how much we have changed: each book is a step towards death.

The child reads each letter with all his heart and effort, as if his growth depended on reading; the older children's eyes gradually close as they read, so that each book is an exciting farewell. In ten idle minutes we can stare at a worn wall or wander aimlessly through the hidden labyrinths inside a cell phone, but perhaps only a sincere conversation or a shy, silent book can turn that empty time into a lasting eternity.

Some books take us to the abysses of the earth, while others lead us to the highest spheres of Heaven. With some we talk to animals and with others we hear the very voice of God. Books are cities in which we all know each other, because they are the best hiding places for our secrets. They are at times sincere friends, but they can also become eternal enemies. Some smile at us and others bring tears to our eyes. A book often knows us better than we know ourselves, although we sense that, deep down, it envies our lives. Every biography is a book and every book has its own biography. A book may not be worth giving one's life for, but reading a good book can be worth a lifetime.

Yes, a book is a curious object. But perhaps it is even more curious not to be curious about books at all.


Gaspar Brahm, Chile