My reading year was as strange as this year was.
In 2020 I finished 38 books. For the first time the majority of the books I consumed was in audio form: 22 audiobooks. None of them was in languages I have been studying, like Italian, German or Russian.
The most meaningful books of the year for me were books I have not finished yet. I have been reading Goethe’s Italian Journey in German since 2017, at a snail’s pace. That’s because all the German I know I am learning in this very book. For a few months, in the first half so far of the pandemic, I read a good few dozen pages of the book. Goethe’s still in Venice in my reading, which means that at this rate it’s a coin toss whether I will finish the book or die first. But it’s been a wonderful read, and coming into contact with a new language is magical, we see hidden structures of humanness reveal themselves in very touching ways.
In early March I went to Portugal once again after some 15 years. The country felt a lot happier now. I bought a copy of Os Lusíadas by Luís de Camões with the original text from 1572. Os Lusíadas is probably the most famous book in the Portuguese language of all time, and its title plays off the Iliad. As the pandemic shut the world down just about a week after this trip to Portugal, I slowly read about a third of Os Lusíadas. The book is as dense with references as can be, each verse carries one or more allusions to mythology and Portuguese history. There are books that help navigate Os Lusíadas, and I followed one of those. It helped a lot. This effort felt worthwhile — it’s so beautiful to witness our native language at a different state, and at the highest level. I feel no big hurry to finish this book.
Another important book I read some of, at no hurry, and haven’t yet finished, is Lacan’s Seminar number 3: The Psychoses. I have no special interest in psychoses, I just tried to follow the numbering of the books as I’ve already read the first two. It is a challenging read for me in the original manuscript, in French. But when it hits you it hits you hard.
There came a point in the pandemic when all these serious reads felt like too much. It became clear I needed to exercise more after several months stuck inside. I took to my bycicle and, when riding in the mountains, listening to audiobooks took over completely. Almost all of these were forgettable, entertainment material, many were about cycling feats which yielded only-passable literature.
Of the books I finished in 2020, I mention Psychoanalytic Listening — Methods, Limits and Innovations by Salman Akhtar as the most memorable. The topic of high-level listening interests me a lot these days. Salman Akhtar does a great job of breaking down and explaining the most fundamental act of a psychoanalyst. I feel this book is applicable outside psychoanalysis and, if you undergo phychoanalysis, even more so.