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Report to Greco? Are all books plainly reports of the world and the existence?

مكرم غصوب17 hrs · (Makram Ghousoub posted on FB)

In the June 5, 1972 issue of The American Scholar, Archibald MacLeish laid out in an essay his philosophy on libraries and librarianship, further shaping modern thought on the subject:

When he was seventy-four years old the Cretan novelist Nikos Kazantzakis began a book. He called it Report to Greco… Kazantzakis thought of himself as a soldier reporting to his commanding officer on a mortal mission—his life. 

Well, there is only one Report to Greco, but no true book was ever anything else than a report. 

A true book is a report upon the mystery of existence.

It speaks of the world, of our life in the world. Everything we have in the books on which our libraries are founded—Euclid’s figures, Leonardo’s notes, Newton’s explanations, Cervantes’ myth, Sappho’s broken songs, the vast surge of Homer—everything is a report of one kind or another and the sum of all of them together is our little knowledge of our world and of ourselves.

Call a book Das Kapital or The Voyage of the Beagle or Theory of Relativity or Alice in Wonderland or Moby-Dick, it is still what Kazantzakis called his book—it is still a “report” upon the “mystery of things.”

But if this is what a book is, then a library is an extraordinary thing.

The existence of a library is, in itself, an assertion.

It asserts that all these different and dissimilar reports, these bits and pieces of experience, manuscripts in bottles, messages from long before, from deep within, from miles beyond, belonged together and might, if understood together, spell out the meaning which the mystery implies. …

The library, almost alone of the great monuments of civilization, stands taller now than it ever did before.

The city decays. The nation loses its grandeur.

The university is not always certain what it is. But the library remains: a silent and enduring affirmation that the great Reports still speak, and not alone but somehow all together…

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November 2022

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