In which I discover that I suffer from the E.M. Forster Syndrome

After writing about “book bloggers” last week, I truly wondered about my mental process with books: this inability to review the one book at a time, as most do.

In fact, I suffer from the E.M. Forster’s Syndrome, mostly known under the phrase: “Only connect”.

Everybody knows that these are the famous two words, Morgan Forster did put as epigraph to his novel “Howards End”. While I am rambling and digressing, I may well say that this is one of my favourite books, one I have in various copies, and without which around, I feel lost.

“Only connect” leads me to tools.

I don’t know if there is an objective world but I know that there is a world, which is mine, in which I live, and that each of us has her or his own world. Our perceptions are different and so we differ in our views of “the” world. What we do then is try to understand what our own world can be, grasp straws, bits, flotsam and jetsam, to broaden it, as well as we try and understand others’ worlds. For all these operations or actions, we need tools.

There are our five senses of course. But there is the weight of our civilisation, of our culture and of our training. We are able to change (slightly) or at least move these and to modify our training by more acquisitions during our lifetime. And we acquire new perceptiveness and kowledge with tools like … books of course, but also music, arts, sciences, crafts, etc. – not to talk of feelings.

I propose myself to talk only of books here, subject of course that it is a limited and deliberate choice that can be widened at any time.

Books are among my favourite tools and I use them even when I keep amused by them. They have shaped me and they still shape me.

They lead me through spaces I may never know, or that I have visited but did not understand in the same way as the authors, or that I may visit later.

They lead me through times I will never be able to know because they are passed, or will exist later when I shall be no more, or that are lived elsewhere at this same moment.

But these tools and the world they each make me discover, connect among them. Like with a jigsaw puzzle, I have to adjust or try to adjust pieces together. Like with a kaleidoscope, I have to move the pieces to see other more complete worlds.

 Therefore, as much as I need the analysis of one book, I need even  more the synthesis of several, and my own world remains a shifting one – one that is never settled forever, but around some “bones”, which are defined by my situation in time and space.

And this is why I shall read “Gone With the Wind” and connect it with “The Leopard” – itself easily connected with “I Viceré” – itself connected with “Au Plaisir de Dieu” and “La Gloire de l’Empire” – all of which will connect with the Antonines, Marguerite Yourcenar, Mrs Angela Thirkell and Mrs. D.E. Stevenson.

 So that I am unable to read and review “Celia’s House” or “The Brandons” by themselves. By a complex and personal web (cobweb, perhaps?) of very thin threads, I shall link them to the Roman Empire, to an historically based French novel, to the pre-WWII era in England, the unification of Italy and the American Civil War, as well as my recurrent leit-motiv of neglected under-valued women fiction, and the Götterdammerung. And I shall not forget costume dramas and my own memories as a little girl.

Add paintings or illustrations, music, cooking, trains and cars, colonialism, agriculture, weapons, churches and religion, and, and, and…



4 thoughts on “In which I discover that I suffer from the E.M. Forster Syndrome

    1. Only connect has been one the of the principles according to which I have grown up. I would not have lived from town to town and country to country as I did with my parents without connecting History, geography, books, arts, etc. And people and their worlds: Japanese do not live like Swedish people! Definitely. 🙂
      As to “Celia’s House”, I shall not review it except if it comesin a group of other books. As all DES fiction, it is bad/good. I thought she was sometimes overdoing things and coincidence and chaged style and even the core of her characters in the middle of the novel, thus lacking consistence – as when she decides to foray into a kind of “gothic”/”reincarnation”stance or suddenly tries to paraphrase “Mansfield Park”. But I belong to a DES reading group on the net as a part of the project of knowing better these “gentle writers” of the beginning of last century. I have written an entry about the two first “Miss Buncle” books (Miss Buncle goes to la Dordogne) and may write about the two last ones and the farther, much farther sequel.
      Connections again!!
      Thank you for taking time to read what I write in broken English and to comment it. This is very, very warming and I appreciate it a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a wonderful post! I love the way you link books. We ARE shaped by books, and I have never thought of them as tools. And we all link them to different experiences. I will have to reread GWTW (my mother’s favorite book! I have her copy) and The Leopard.


  2. I had left this to be answered at a time that would not be bed time and I, half asleep… Thank you for your compliments. I have already told you that I am rather in awe of you therefore one appreciation from you is better than many from others.
    I am twenty-two and my father took me to see a concentration camp, not far from his home in North-Eastern France, when I was seven. He explained everything from the barracks to the gallows, from the experiences theatre to the gas chamber – with all possible details. That was frightening and I still have nightmares. But he ended the “visit” explaining that people had survived this inferno, this hell, thanks to culture. They would recite poetry or remember novels or try to re-build pieces of music or whole paintings in their heads.
    Then when I started the Ecole Normale Supérieure, before I had to leave to care for my sister and my cousin, after Mother’s death, I realised that all I was learning and reading and listening and seeing – all that were tools to make me have an individual thought, an individual mind, be a unique human beng respecting other unique human beings, and not to be entrapped in movements like Nazism.
    This is probably why I feel so serious about blogs and bloggers: reading is important to create a thinking self.
    Anyway, that does not make look down my nose upon a good whodunnit or a PG Wodehouse book or even a comics! They are all part of me, and I have a smiling light side as well – fortunately!
    GWTW and the Leopard have the same theme: “in order that nothing changs, move”.
    Thank you again for your kind interest.


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