a certain obscure desire


What he wanted was not his accumulation of notes but an absence of notes: what he wanted was transparency. He was aware that scholarship – the acquisition of knowledge – brought with it a terrible anxiety. How much was enough? How much more was there? Was there any end to it? If one did not possess enough knowledge how could one be sure of possessing more? And if one called a halt to the process how could one not die of shame? Thus with his love for his books went a certain obscure desire to have done with them, or rather not to have been an officious midwife to small thoughts about great masterpieces.

(Anita Brookner, “Lewis Percy”)


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