“A Book Is a Carrier of Soul” – Elena Ponomareva on the World Book Day

April 23rd is a symbolic date for the world literature, so due to this fact it became the World Book and Copyright Day. This was the day when Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, and Inca Garsilaso de la Vega passed away in 1616. Director of the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities Elena Ponomareva shares on important books and authors, the world’s book capital, and the luxury of hard-copy books.

– What is the place of books in the life of humanity?

– The place of namely books in the life of humanity is among the crucial ones, since they are the stable carriers and transmitters of information authenticated by the centuries. Meanwhile, books translate not only information, but also feelings, image of an epoch and an author, the atmosphere of time. Books have played the most significant role in forming spiritual values of epochs, history, human beings, and society.

– Which books changed the world?

– It is difficult to speak about such books, as for someone that would be the Bible, for someone else – Quran, and for other people Mahabharata. Each culture has its own iconic books without which cultural consciousness would not be possible. On the one hand, these are books which absorbed the spirit of culture, and on the other – those, thanks to which this spirit was formed in the first place. One may also start mentioning important figures, and while doing it, be simply guided by the list of Nobel laureate writers. It was for a reason that in 1996 those who decided to establish this holiday chose the date of death of the authors who changed the world: Shakespeare and Cervantes. Our attitude to any event happening today just can’t be isolated from that system of worldview which Shakespeare shaped by his works. Perhaps, that is what determines a book’s importance – whether it changes the world, or not.

– On this day the World’s Book Capital is being chosen; which city do you consider the most worthy of this title?

– I think that Russia would have been the World Book Empire, for sure. Not one culture could avoid the influence of Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tolstoy, Bulgakov, and Gogol. Every time our speculations touch upon the meaning of life, human being and nature of occurring events, we would most often quote Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Pushkin. Of course, for me the main book capital is Saint Petersburg; it is a special cultural space which gave a whole gallery of authors to the world.

– What is the future of books? Will paper books become a luxury?

– I think that in many aspects they are already now becoming a luxury for perception. But I still believe that a book, like live human communication, is an eternal value, which will survive the gadget-mania epoch and will eventually return to the hands of people, and they will definitely have a need for it. People may read e-books – these are still books. But a paper book is also a carrier of soul, not a surrogate. I’m sure that from a luxury item it will very soon change back into a necessity.

Ekaterina Kuznetsova, photo by: Oleg Igoshin
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