Ever since I first read Hannah Arendt's introduction to "Illuminations", the great German-Jewish intellectual Walter Benjamin's collection of essays and reflections, something seemingly minor in that original New Yorker piece has stuck with me.
Later in that same paragraph Arendt goes on to quote Walter Benjamin again:
"No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener".
To me, Benjamin's words mean that no work of art can be concerned with how it will be read, seen or listened to. People, with their disparate ideas, personalities and experiences will imbue the work with their own meaning, often bearing little resemblance to any original intent.
Towards the end of her book on Montaigne, "How to Live", Sarah Bakewell comments on all the readers of "Essays" over the centuries and how they have been in a continuous dialogue with Montaigne and his words. She then alludes to Virginia Woolf's wonderful vision of generations talking to each other through the words of others.
"Over the centuries, this interpretation and reinterpretation creates a long chain connecting a writer to all future readers - who frequently read each other as well as the original. Virginia Woolf had a beautiful vision of generations interlinked in this way: of how 'minds are threaded together - how any live mind is of the very same stuff as Plato's and Euripides . . . It is this common mind that binds the whole world together; & all the world is mind.' This capacity for living on through readers' inner worlds over long periods of history is what makes a book like the Essays a true classic. As it is reborn differently in each mind, it also brings those minds together."
("How to Live - or - A life of Montaigne" - pg. 315)
With these thoughts in mind, I plan to share quotes from my readings more frequently in the future. The quotes I share will have somehow struck a chord in me but I will avoid commentary "so as not to ruin everything with explanations that seek to provide a ... connection". Hopefully the quotations can create another small community of "minds threaded together". In homage to Benjamin and his "Arcades Project", I will name this series of assembling the creations of others, "The Quotations Project".