Came across this one, from one of Kafka’s letters, in the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom:
If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it? So that it shall make us happy? Good God, we would also be happy if we had no books, and such books as make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. But what we must have are those books which come upon us like ill-fortune, and distress us deeply, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us.
I love how this starts out as contentious and misanthropic and then swerves to end on something akin to salvation and hope.
I’ve got more to say on Sade’s book, but for a future post. For now this quote’s going on the wall of my office.