Thoughts at Intervals?

A good description of blogging? I believe so, and at the very least, an apt name for this blog. In long form then: the intermittent, quasi-periodic documenting of the varied strangenesses that populate my mind, the aim being to extract from that continuous quotidian internal commentary of ‘thinking’, solid, distinct thoughts, which thoughts seem to demand the revisiting of my attention, and thus might be worthy of yours.

Aside from, in my view, the euphony of the phrase “Thoughts at Intervals”, there is a degree of homage to its formation. Avid readers of Jose Saramago might have recognised in it the suggestion of the novel title, Death at Intervals, and it is no exaggeration to say that the Portuguese Nobel laureate Saramago has for me been a profound influence, both in literary terms and in general. The extent of this influence I will discuss in a forthcoming post, but today I simply wish to describe the first time that I attempted to read Death at Intervals (Portuguese title: As Intermitências da Morte).

Ordinarily, one might see the word “attempted” and suspect that I gave up reading it through boredom or one of the many other standard reasons we have for failing to finish novels. Nothing so straightforward here.

A few years ago after pleasant time spent browsing in a bookshop, the book caught my eye, probably due to the combination of cover and title, but after reading the summary on the back it was clear that this was a book worth speculating on.

And so, I began to read. However, approximately 70 pages in, I had the sense that the words I was reading, I had read before, and not just similar sentiments, differently expressed, but the very same sentiments, identically expressed. Initially I guessed it was perhaps a literary device, a statement about the repetition of life experience that immortality would bring, pertinent given the novel’s theme, but comparison with the beginning pages confirmed that this book had been bizarrely misprinted, destroying my nascent literary hypothesis. Roughly one third of the content was missing, replaced by a duplicate copy of the first third. Suffice to say, this enforced interruption was a major frustration given just how much I was enjoying reading.

At the next opportunity I returned to the bookshop, who expressed some surprise at the situation, but promptly replaced the book with an unconfused copy from their shelves. I left satisfied and finished reading the book shortly thereafter. The obsession initiated, many further books of his were consumed in the following year, and as I learnt more about this author, something approaching regret surfaced, a suspicion of an opportunity missed.

An author who had written both The Double (about a teacher who becomes dangerously obsessed with his double) and The History of the Siege of Lisbon (about a proofreader rewriting history by inserting the word “not” into a text of the same name), and who counted Borges among his major influences (and here I’m thinking of the stories Pierre Menard Author of the Quixote and The Library of Babel), would surely not have returned the book. No, I had acted in error. I should have kept the first book, and instead bought an additional copy, placing the two of them side-by-side on my bookshelf – Saramago’s proofread copy to the Library of Babel’s loan.