reader,  writer

is a book what you want it to mean or what the author wanted it to say?

3 min read

I want to provoke a reflection here without telling what I think about it. And before you decide not to keep reading this, that’s exactly the point of this post.

So, answer this: is a book what you want it to mean, or is it what the author wanted to say? When a writer gets their book published, they not only might give away their copyrights but also the idea behind the story or even everything they didn’t write. Do you agree?

In one of the most important works of Brazilian Literature, Dom Casmurro, lies a question that has been tried to be answered for over a century: did Capitú cheat on Bentinho? Dom Casmurro is the story of a young couple in love since they were kids and as the story grows their fate ends up in that tragic question.

I’ll tell you. There’s no right answer. There are hundreds of studies about it. But none will ever tell the truth. Cause the truth is not exact. The psychological and semiotic analysis of the book is an endless path. You will read the whole story a hundred times and you won’t be sure. At some point, you will give up and just believe in what you think is true. And your belief will depend on a series of variables related to your life and other beliefs germane to your views as a person. It will depend on how you see the world, and not what the author thought. Or is it? You’ll never know if you’re right or wrong, and there’s a chance you won’t be either one. Can you accept that?

Which leads us to Cervantes. Was Don Quixote crazy, or was he just thinking differently? He wanted to be the hero of the stories he read, but the knights he read about, well… We could question that too, but I’m more intererested now in knowing what you think. Did he build a world where he found it less painful to live? Or was he avoiding the reality, the evolution, the future of his world? Good or bad? Was he just delusional and, therefore, wrong? And what was the real message behind the epic saga of Don Quixote de La Mancha? I’m not asking you to tell me what you read about it, I want to know what you thought and felt when you read the book. What was the message for you?

Now, throughout the history of literature, books were burned, books were banned, people were prohibited to read authors because of their political, social, religous and other kinds of views, their public opinions, their behavior, and authors were forced to change their stories to get published. Again, I’m not gonna tell you what I think about it. I just want to provoke some thoughts.

With all that in mind, pick a book you loved reading. Now read about the author. And if you find out that they said something you don’t agree with or acted in a way you disapprove, or just thought differently from what you thought they did… does it change the story for you? Does it change what the book did to you? It might be the book that made you fall in love with reading. What happens now? Does it change the meaning of the author’s words? How do you feel about it all? Or… do you think that, no matter what an author does or thinks, their work is not theirs anymore when it gets in the hands of a reader?

I’ll give you some names to provoke you a little bit more: Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Gertrude Stein, Road Dahl, J.D. Salinger, J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood.

What do you think?

One Comment

  • WithloveMasi

    Insteresting questions. I think what matters for me is the content of the book. What I interpret, what I want the book to become. The author’s ideas might be embodied in the whole story, but as you said above, it doesn’t matter if it’s the book that changed my life. Because in the end, is the story and what it represents. So I guess the reader has the last word.

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