Serendipity: A chance walk-in into a bookshop. A chance sight of more than one translation of Siddhartha. An impromptu reading aloud activity by two individuals to compare the translations. Moments of bliss.
Some pleasures in life have no substitute. Like reading aloud to someone with a receptive mind. Or being read aloud by someone with a perceptive mind. I have lost count of how many times I have fantasized about this activity. And once in a while somebody would oblige me, like the other day when we read aloud passages from Siddhartha. I could try write an eulogy on the act of reading aloud, but the below excerpt from The New York Times expresses my thoughts better than I could possibly imagine.
“But listening aloud, valuable as it is, isn’t the same as reading aloud. Both require a great deal of attention. Both are good ways to learn something important about the rhythms of language. But one of the most basic tests of comprehension is to ask someone to read aloud from a book. It reveals far more than whether the reader understands the words. It reveals how far into the words — and the pattern of the words — the reader really sees.
Reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words. To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone. The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost an erotic quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company. The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading.”