Friday, July 5, 2013

On Kundera

I remember, quite vividly, a freshman version of myself scanning the aisles of National Bookstore in search of Ignorance. It was a required reading for one of my favorite (albeit most dreaded) class in university, Humanities 1. I remember it was around P600 that time, an amount that was outrageously expensive for my 16yo self. Also, I haven't gotten over my judging-a-book-by-its-cover phase then and the bizarre potato on the cover was kind of a turn off. Needless to say, my first Kundera was a 100-paged photocopy. But read and re-read, filled with both nonsensical and profound comments, underlines, double underlines, and highlights in neon yellow, pink and blue. Truth be told, I don't think I completely understood it, but nonetheless, my love affair with Kundera began that first semester of my freshman year.

I chanced upon a copy of his Unbearable Lightness of Being on sale soon after that semester. It became    not only one of my most read novels, but also the most discussed. Gel and I would discuss it over coffee at Faustina's for hours, at least once a week during our last year in university. It is the only book I have which I wrote on, telling myself I'd buy another one for reading, that this one is strictly for discussions. I lent it to Laurence a few months before the end of college, and on our graduation, he returned it to me with his graduation picture tucked inside like a bookmark. My mom, not wanting to put it in her bag fearing she would ruin it, ironically lost it that day. Kuya Rammil and I spent a good hour looking for it all over the graduation grounds and the parking lot. I have never in my life been so devastated to lose a book. Given that I could easily get a new one. It's because that old, tattered copy had so much history.

One of the saddest things about leaving home is leaving the books I've collected through the years. All of which has their own story and history. And I plan to give my new books here the same value. My first book here in Canada is the graphic novel, Asterios Polyp. Straight from the UK, but given to me as a birthday gift by my friends from the Philippines, KJ and Denise. I was also given a copy of Craig Thompson's Blankets for my birthday. A week ago, I decided to use a gift card for Indigo (a gift card I also received for the said birthday) and buy myself a book. I am quite the sentimental. So much so in fact that it took me three visits to Indigo before finally purchasing Ignorance - that beauty of a novel that introduced me to Kundera, and what I was once too young to get myself. Just because I wanted to make sure that my first ever book purchased here has a meaning.

I re-read it yesterday, and do not think I could have made a better choice. I couldn't have chosen a better first novel here, so faraway from home, than that that speaks of nostalgia and great returns.

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