“But those masterful novels are life-giving. They enchant us. They help us to live. They teach us. It has become necessary to come to their defense and promote them relentlessly, because it is an illusion to think that they have the power to radiate all by themselves. …
“We want necessary books, books we can read the day after a funeral, when we have no tears left from all our crying, when we can hardly stand for the pain; books that will be there like loved ones when we have tidied a dead child’s room and copied out her secret notes to have them with us, always, and breathed in her clothes hanging in the wardrobe a thousand times, and there is nothing left to do; books for those nights when no matter how exhausted we are we cannot sleep, and all we want is to tear ourselves away from obsessive visions; books that have heft and do not let us down …
“We have no time to waste on insignificant books, hollow books, books that are here to please.
“We want books that are written for those of us who doubt everything, who cry over the least little thing, who are startled by the slightest noise.
“We want books that cost their authors a great deal, books where you can feel the years of work, the backache, the writer’s block, the author’s panic at the thought that [she] might be lost; [her] discouragement, [her] courage, [her] anguish, [her] stubbornness, the risk of failure that [she] has taken.
“We want splendid books, books that immerse us in the splendor of reality and keep us there; books that prove to us that love is at work in the world next to evil, right up against it, at times indistinctly, and that it always will be, just the way that suffering will always ravage hearts. We want good novels.
“We want books that leave nothing out; neither human tragedy nor everyday wonders, books that bring fresh air to our lungs
“And even if there is only one such book per decade, even if there is only one … every ten years, that would be enough. We want nothing else.”
from A Novel Bookstore, by Laurence Cossé, Europa editions; copyright © 2009 Éuropa Editions Gallimard,