If it ever becomes necessary for you to eat a book, out of despair or out of some primal need, then eat the telephone book, for it is the only book in your library which came free. Except, of course, for the books you stole.

Voler un livre, Voltaire once said, or was it Diderot who said that, André Gide said it too, but I know he stole that saying from someone else, voler un livre, Voltaire, of course, said it in French, I am quoting him verbatim, voler un livre, yes I am sure it was voltaire who said that, but I am willing to stand corrected if someone knows better, in any case, voler un livre, that anti-Semite Voltaire once said, oh you didn't know that Voltaire was an anti-Semite, oh yes, a real hater of Jews, even though he claimed to be an atheist, does that make sense to you, how can an atheist hate Jews, Jews are the best atheists in the world, anyway, voler un livre, Voltaire said, I think he said that to Newton when he bumped into Newton in the streets of London during his exile in England, therefore he may not have said it in French, but in English, yes, of course, in English, so I was right in the first place, to write, to steal a book, yes I first wrote what Voltaire said to Newton in English, to steal a book, but I deleted the statement, to steal a book, and instead wrote, voler un livre, in French, but in fact I should have written, to steal a book, because when Voltaire bumped into Newton on Piccadilly Square, yes, now I remember that it was on Piccadilly Square, he spoke to him in English, of course, because Newton did not understand French, at least that's what I have been told, and Voltaire when he bumped into Newton saw that Newton had a book bulging out of his coat pocket, the top of the book showing just a little out of the pocket, as if Newton had shoved the book in his pocket hurriedly, stealthily, not wanting anyone to notice that he had stolen the book, I am, of course, speculating here, but from the look on Newton's face when Voltaire bumped into him, one can assume that he had stolen the book, probably in a bookstore on Piccadilly Square, the fact that the book which was sticking out of Newton's pocket was stolen cannot be confirmed, but nonetheless, when Voltaire bumped into Newton, and Newton turned to Voltaire to curse him for his civil clumsiness, Voltaire noticed the book half-hidden in Newton's pocket and that's when he said to him, recognizing whom he had bumped into, voler un livre n'est pas un crime, dear Sir, oops, mistake, he said it in English, no in French, yes, Voltaire must have spoken in English on Piccadilly Square when he bumped into Newton, Voltaire did speak English, badly, and with a thick accent, but he did speak English, that much has been confirmed, so when he bumped into Newton and noticed the book sticking out of Newton's pocket he said, to steal a book is not a crime, of by the way, the first part of what Voltaire said to Newton has been authenticated, to steal a book is not a crime, what has not been authenticated is the last part of his statement, as long as one reads the book, but if one accepts the entire statement, regardless of the fact that it cannot be totally attributed to Voltaire, then besides eating the telephone book when the situation becomes desperate, one can also eat the stolen books in one's library as long as one has read those books, for this we must be grateful to Voltaire, even though he was a bastard, an anti-Semite who hated Jews.

Copyright © 1996 Raymond Federman