Benjamin Kunkel on The Book of Disquiet: “I’ll never set foot in this world”
Yet just as often as I am tempted to give in to misgivings and guilt, I feel something else—I feel that I’m right to clutch the thought of The Book to me, and to prefer, to any satisfaction I might obtain, the excitement and dread of being solitary and unrealized. This is especially so when I’m back in my apartment, alone with my books. Then I wonder again if it’s true that “Freedom is the possibility of isolation.” Meanwhile, “Life, obvious and unanimous, flows past outside me in the footsteps of the passers-by.” All that is quoting Pessoa, with whom I may have identified too strongly, as a patient becomes a part of his disease, or disquiet. Yet the ideal reader is an invalid. He lies in bed and imagines the life he might lead once recovered. If the illness is prolonged, what was a chance occurrence, an event separate from him, alters his character somewhat and becomes a part of it. Of course I’m not sick at all, and in reading The Book of Disquiet I took all the pleasure that is the mark of good health. Nevertheless, even now that I haven’t taken the book down from its shelf in my bedroom for several months, sometimes when I am walking through New York, with its hurry and din and its large portion of purposeful and enviable people (I have sometimes even heard that I am one of them), I look around and think, thinking of The Book of Disquiet, “I’ll never set foot in this world.” Whether this sentence, uttered silently in a voice not quite my own, amounts to a boast, a bizarre lie, or a statement of sad fact is one of many things I don’t know and, if the example of Pessoa is any guide, may contrive never to learn.
— from “A Cold in the Soul: Reading The Book of Disquiet in Apartment 62” by Benjamin Kunkel (The Believer)