I hardly read books twice. In fact I immediately forget the plot of a book, or at least what remains in me are memories of what I felt when reading the book, but always I don't have the gift of remembering specific scenes or lines from books, novels in particular.
Once in a while however, a book comes that tugs my heart, those that haunt me for days after I finish it. It might be the language, the writing style, or the plot, but somehow it lingers a bit. And when I run out of things to read, I often have the compulsion to read them again and they still have the same entrancing effect. Or maybe I discover a new layer to it on the second reading.
I think it was in Elegy that one character said that a book always changes when you read it again coz the reader changes too.
I read The Reader (Bernard Schlink), ages ago when I was still living in Davao. And I read it again when I moved to Manila, finding it in the rubble of books at the Evangelista flea market (fuck, I miss that place!).
It's a pretty thin book, and such an easy read all the time. But for its brevity, the book expresses a whole gamut of emotions, from passion to longing, from guilt to defiance, and from misery to exoneration.
Set in post-WW 2 Germany, it's a coming of age story of a boy who reads to an older woman, his lover. She disappears suddenly and their paths cross many years later in the courtroom. The woman is tried for her involvement in the concentration camps and that's when, as a young lawyer in training, the protagonist realizes that the woman is illiterate, a fact that she hides at the cost of her freedom.
A few months ago, a boy gave me a copy of The Reader. (We shall call the boy Kon Kaen.) He was quite disappointed to know that I've read the novel twice, but it was obvious that I was excited when he gave it to me. I told him how much I love the book.
I brought the book with me on a recent trip and only then did it dawn on me how oddly unique Kon Kaen is, or at least our relationship was. I thought he was another internet hook-up until it became apparent that it meant more to him.
On some nights he would just appear outside my building, unannounced. I do like his company, but the thing is, he and I had a major communication gap. Like, he can only speak a handful of English and my Thai is far worse (practically nothing).
On most nights that we were together, we would just sit on my rooftop and stare at the bridge and the clouds. Sometimes our eyes would meet and he would giggle, for lack of better things to say.
More than a month ago, Kon Kaen left for work in Canada. We managed to keep in touch through MSN (like I was just chatting with him earlier today, which prompted me to write this post). I honestly miss him. But it seems odd that I'm feeling this now coz I never really gave him a chance.
He was one of the few guys who exerted effort to sustain our friendship, a rarity in this city. He is probably the only local I met who had a shred of passion in him.
But still I pushed him away. I knew it was not going to work anyway. The communication gap was too big a factor. I disappointed him over and over again, but what can I do?
Keeping in touch with him now is probably my way of making amends with him. I just want to know that he is happy, which he said he is. Today, he saw snow for the first time.
On a related note, The Reader has been made into a movie, directed by Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Blly Elliot) and top-billed by the divine Kate Winslet and Ralph Feinnes. See the IMDB entry here.