- Which book have you not read yet?
- How often haven`t you read the book?
- Since when haven`t you read the book?
- What would have become of you if you would have read it?
- How do you compensate for not having read it?
- And if you had read it, what would that mean?
- Can you prove you have not read your unread book yet?
These are only some of the questions that Austrian artist Julius Deutschbauer asked roughly 40 people on April 14 and 15 at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York. For 13 years he has assembled descriptions of unread books, which he has compiled into a Library of Unread Books. During these 13 years, he has conducted over 600 interviews. The unread books can be found in the Arbeiterkammer Wien (the Austrian equivalent of the employment agency), with each book including the name of its non-reader.
The questions that Julius Deutschbauer puts to those he interviews reveal, of course, not only their experience of and assumptions about the books they haven’t read, but also a great deal about the interviewees themselves as well, who are subjected to a seemingly unending list of questions. “Would you be charismatic in your unread book?” “Has reading always done you good?”
Over time, as Julius Deutschbauer told me, a hit list of unread books emerged: the Bible, James Joyce’s "Ulysses", Robert Musil’s "The Man Without Qualities" (revealing that most of the interviews took place in Austria), Proust’s "In Search of Lost Time"; Karl Marx’s "Das Kapital" – these are the favorites among unread books. Or should one say the least favorite, as they haven’t been read?
It’s interesting how Julius Deutschbauer arrives at the questions he asks on unread books. He has taken most of them from Denis Diderot’s "Jacques the Fatalist and His Master", which itself must also be a good candidate for an unread book.
Those questioned also repeatedly mention made-up books. Books that not only are unread, but unwritten. But there are often also very specific titles that have not (yet) been read. In one interview I briefly overheard, someone named as his unread book "Basic Electronics", published by the U.S. Bureau of Naval Personnel. And this person also gave an interesting answer – among others – to the question “How would you prepare a snack for the protagonist or hero of your unread book?” As the navy presumably rarely has fresh ingredients at its disposal, this interviewee responded that he’d probably serve something out of a can.
Thursday, 15. April 2010
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