Why do I read?

1. To obey. We were forced to read in school. I remember we had to read aloud a story about a Hamaranbadahada princess and I got stuck on the name. I tried again at home. Now I cannot get it out of my head / 2. To imitate. To be like my parents / 3. To set an example for my children / 4. To bring my father back. He died when I was a child and left all those books in the library. Would reading them help me to find out what kind of person he was? / 5. To find myself / 6. To find others / 7. To escape from others / 8. To distract myself. Time went by very slowly back then and there was not that great offer of machines with buttons / 9. Out of envy. I would hear someone use a word I had never heard of before and immediately wanted it for myself. I wondered: How would he know that? Because he reads? / 10. For fun. Perhaps my favourite adventures were those of Mort and Phil, but nowadays I remember the extraordinary stories of Tío Vázquez more fondly / 11. Out of curiosity. She called him promiscuous. So he ran off to quickly check the dictionary / 12. Out of a desire for notoriety. When someone asks me ‘Have you read these books?’ I reply ‘Not all of them’ / 13. Out of a desire for invisibility. The ostrich hides its head in a hole and thinks it cannot be seen; the reader hides their head in a book and likewise disappears / 14. To feel like an explorer. What Marquis de Sade and Pierre Louÿs talk about in their books is not easy to find through direct testimony / 15. Because I am too much a coward to live a dangerous life / 16. To find a good quote. For example, this one by Juan Ramón: ‘Better to burn once than to insure against fire 365 times a year’. / 17. For the pleasure of a well-told story / 18. To provide our heads with better dream material / 19. To fight pain. There are some who read sentences or fragments from The Little Prince; it was probably for the same purpose —to find comfort— that Saint-Exupéry wrote his book / 20. To learn to write. How have others worded what I want to say? / 21. To not have to write. If I discover others have already said it well, why say it twice? / 22. To gather information and find out what that peelable postal ball is that everyone is talking about / 23. To learn to lie and offer the world better lies / 24. To know the truth. With the hope that a comforting ultimate truth exists / 25. Because I never say no to anything / 26. Because no one forces me to do it / 27. For no special reason, because it does not seem like a serious activity / 28. Because I have been told that what is worthwhile is rereading, so I am preparing myself / 29. Because it is impossible not to read a book titled Twenty Poems to be Read in the Subway (Oliverio Girondo) / 30. Out of gravity. You learned to read, so you will read now and will read tomorrow. Also the banners at protests and the messages people stick on tree trunks / 31. Out of ignorance. You thought reading would make you smarter or that it would help you make friends / 32. To fight ignorance / 33. To travel through time / 34. Because it would be a shame to let so many books go to waste, after all the effort it takes to make them, after all the space they take up! / 35. Because perhaps in books I can find what I am looking for / 36. Because although what I look for cannot be found anywhere, let alone in books, at least reading does not tire as much as other things do / 37. Why not? / 38. For the aesthetic. Because readers compose a shape as beautiful as a fisherman with a line / 39. To know everything / 40. To forget everything / 41. To become skillful / 42. Out of habit. It is a vice I picked up and have not been able to correct / 43. For reasons I cannot remember.

Vicente Ferrer

Article published in issue 200 of the magazine Clij (January 2007) under the title ‘43 Right Answers’.
Illustration: ex libris for Ludek and Karolina, by Alejandra Hidalgo (September 2003).