Nedenfor er et sitat fra Graham Greenes essay "The Lost Childhood". Barndommens uskyld endte visst for Greene da han lærte å lese. "I was safe as long as I could not read," sier han. Det er flere ting jeg stusser ved i dette essayet, blant annet det første avsnittet, hvor han sier at det er bare i barndommen at bøkene virkelig påvirker oss, og at vi senere i livet stort sett leser for å bli underholdt eller for å få våre meninger og synspunkter bekreftet. Jeg kan ikke forstå at Greene virkelig mente dette. Som forfatter måtte han da ha et ønske og et håp om å påvirke folk med det han skrev? Personlig kunne jeg ikke vært mer uenig - jeg leser i hvert fall for å bli påvirket - for å lære, oppleve, utvide horisonten, men veldig gjerne også for å bli provosert.
Og så dette med at han var trygg så lenge han ikke kunne lese. Nå kan jeg, i motsetning til Greene, riktig nok ikke huske det eksakte øyeblikket da jeg kunne lese og bøkenes verden åpnet seg, men det kan i hvert fall ikke ha vært noe skremmende øyeblikk, jeg må snarere ha opplevd det som om verden åpnet seg, som om jeg hadde tatt et gedigent skritt videre mot noe høyst attråverdig.
Kanskje jeg misforstår ham, kanskje jeg ikke leser ham godt nok. Han gir jo også uttrykk for den begeistringen man leser med som barn. Men når han spør: "What do we ever get nowadays from reading to equal the excitement and the revelation in those first fourteen years?" er jeg altså uenig med ham. Jeg opplever i hvert fall selv at jeg fortsatt leser med noe nær den samme begeistringen som den gang. Lesingens magi har aldri sluppet taket i meg, og jeg håper at den aldri gjør det heller.
«Perhaps it is only in childhood that books have any deep influence on our lives. In later life we admire, we are entertained, we may modify some views we already hold, but we are more likely to find in books merely a confirmation of what is in our minds already: as in a love affair it is our own features that we see reflected flatteringly back.
But in childhood all books are books of divination, telling ut about the future, and like the fortune-teller who sees a long journey in the cards or death by water they influence the future. I suppose that is why books exited us so much. What do we ever get nowadays from reading to equal the excitement and the revelation in those first fourteen years? Of course I should be interested to hear that a new novel by Mr. E.M. Forster was going to appear this spring, but I could never compare that mild expectation of civilized pleasure with the missed heartbeat, the appalled glee I felt when I found on a library shelf a novel by Rider Haggard, Percy Westerman, Captain Brereton og Stanley Weyman which I had not read before. It is in those early years that I would look for the crisis, the moment when life took a new slant in its journey towards death.
I remember distinctly the suddenness with which a key turned in a lock and I found I could read - not just the sentences in a reading book with the syllables coupled like railway carriages, but a real book. It was paper-covered with the picture of a boy, bound and gagged, dangling at the end of a rope inside a well with the water raising above his waist - an adventure of Dixon Brett, detective. All a long summer holiday I kept my secret, as I believed: I did not want anybody to know that I could read. I suppose I half consciously realized even then that this was the dangerous moment. I was safe so long as I could not read - the wheels had not begun to turn, but now the future stood around on bookshelves everywhere waiting for the child to choose - the life of a chartered accountant perhaps, a colonial civil servant, a planter in China, a steady job in a bank, happiness and misery, eventually one particular form of death, for surely we choose our death much as we choose our job. It grows out of our acts and our evasions, out of our fears and out of our moments of courage. I suppose my mother must have discovered my secret, for on the journey home I was presented for the train with another real book, a copy of Ballantyne’s Coral Island with only a single picture to look at, a coloured frontispiece. But I would admit nothing. All the long journey I stared at the one picture and never opened the book.»
Graham Greene: The Lost Childhood.
Collected Essays, Penguin 1970.