From the archives
They can’t touch what we have in our heads
In the end, says the late literary critic and philosopher George Steiner on Of Beauty and Consolation, “we are what we remember”. Our generation has learnt that we are all “wanderers hunted on this earth”. Millions of people have been displaced from their homelands and become exiles, their possessions and way of life taken from them. But there’s one thing that couldn’t be stolen: the words they had committed to memory. In Ezekiel, God dictates a text to the prophet and then asks him to eat the scroll. The surprised prophet does as instructed, and the scroll literally becomes a part of him. Ben Jonson described the act of reading with the verb “ingest”: you eat what you read; it nourishes you like food. It becomes “fibre of your fibre, heart of your heart” and stays with you. Over time, the house of your mind becomes full of “wonderful furniture”. To be able to find inside you “the company” of what John Milton called “the master spirits” means you will always come home to a “full house”.