the same river twice

“In our positivistic civilization, one of the inappropriate
compliments sometimes paid to literature is to reduce it to ‘artistic
knowledge’. Not that such cognizance does not exist, but art is both
more and less than knowledge. It is unique, sui generis, a thing in
and of itself. And its experience is one of the precious
justifications for our own existence.

While the work of art ‘enriches’ (another unsuitable analogy), at the
same time it creates a postpartum sense of loss: the first experience
is unique, an act never to be repeated – no matter how great the
understanding and appreciation later achieved through the most intent
study. If only we could erase from our minds the memory of our
favourite books and return to the still unsuspected wonder contained
in those works! When we recommend them to our friends, we do so in
envy – that we cannot recreate that initial magic for ourselves. And
the more we love a book, the greater is our own wistfulness. We cannot
step into the same river twice, not so much because the river is
different, but because we ourselves are in flux.”

John Glad
Foreward to Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales

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