Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias Énard (It’s just magnificent!)

Here is an indication of the glory within these pages, just in Énard’s ability to write about a notebook alone:

”Michelangelo owns a notebook, a simple notebook he made himself: some leaves of paper folded in half, held together with a string, with a cover made of thick cardboard. It’s not a sketchbook, he doesn’t draw in it; nor does he note down the verses that come to him sometimes, or the drafts of his letters, even less his impressions of the days or the weather outside.

In this stained notebook, he records treasures. Endless accumulations of various objects, accounts, expenses, supplies: clothes, menus, words, simply words.

His notebook is his sea chest.” (p. 14)

Mathias Enard has written exactly how I feel about notebooks, what I have known to be true about them, but unable to articulate, since I was a child.

And then there’s this:

”You conquer people by telling them of battles, kings, elephants and marvelous beings; by speaking to them about the happiness they will find beyond death, the bright light that presided over their birth, the angels wheeling around them, the demons menacing them, and love, love, that promise of oblivion and satiety. Tell them about all of that, and they will love you; they will make you the equal of a god.” (p. 54)

I could keep writing quotes until the novel ends…

13 thoughts on “Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias Énard (It’s just magnificent!)”

  1. Remember when you sent me C S Lewis definition of friendship? The instance when you realize that something unique about yourself resonates with someone else? Given this definition we actually have a basis for friendship with so many others. I can Imagine you snd Leonardo comparing notebooks


    1. Ah, my friend, you remember so many details that are cloudy in my mind! (Could it be the pain killers I am on for this surgery?!) Yet, I love that friendship occurs when something unique within us resonates with someone else. You and I have much in common that way, starting with our faith and moving on toward books. Even more, you add to me things of which I do not know, enriching my life immeasurably. As for notebooks, I’d love to see Michelangelo’s. I am sure they would intimidate me even more than the beautiful works of art on Instagram! 😉


    1. I wish my French was still strong enough to use it to read French novels! I haven’t read in French since Voltaire’s Candide, or St. Exupery’s Le Petit Prince, which was very long ago indeed. I am sure you love this, though, as I do. It is almost like poetry, it is so beautifully written. I have been taking my time with it all weekend.


  2. I usually highlight passages as I read, but there are some books where I have to stop doing that because I realise that it’s futile—when almost everything is highlighted, nothing stands out. This sounds like one of those books! Thanks for sharing these beautiful quotes.


    1. That sounds like my Bible! I’ve taken to writing meaningful quotes in a notebook; plus, I always feel badly when I mark a book as if I’m defacing it. One of the inserts in my traveler’s notebook is for quotes…and there we circle back to notebooks again. 😉


      1. Yes, I have the same issue about highlighting as defacing. I’m reading almost exclusively ebooks at the moment because I’m travelling full time and can’t carry around lots of print books. I hate reading that way, but one advantage is the guilt-free highlighting 🙂 I do like the idea of a notebook for recording treasures, though!


        1. And I like how when I highlight text in my kindle or nook (of course, greedy me has both) I can easily pull it up.

          I have seen from your blog that you travel quite a bit; how very lovely to visit new places! Are you keeping a traveler’s notebook, by chance?


          1. I am! Nothing very organised or consistent, but I jot things down when I remember and have the book to hand. I like the idea of adding treasures I come across in my reading as well, though. I do find it easy to pull up the notes on my Kindle when I’m going back to review a book, but after that, I rarely see them again. So maybe I’ll make my notebook more of a general sea chest from now on!

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