Spaces of Encounter

Ethel Baraona and César Reyes for The Architectural Review

The inextricable relationship between books and space is at the basis of this essay, which highlights our understanding of books as spaces of encounter, and the importance of publishing and reading heterogeneous books— whether fiction, poetry or critical theory—in order to create these new kinds of spaces, where empathy, alterity, and otherness are stronger than ideologies. Poet and editor Adil Jussawalla remarks the need for publishing in order to spread critical thinking, something that historically has been the seed of several independent and even undercover movements and publishing practices, such as the samizdat on the years of the post-Stalin USSR—which writer Vladimir Bukovsky summarized as follows: “Samizdat: I write it myself, edit it myself, censor it myself, publish it myself, distribute it myself, and spend jail time for it myself.”—or the xeroxing practices in Kolkata, to make books economically accessible to the population at large.

In that sense, the goal of publishing is first and foremost to create those spaces for critical debate and insurgencies, that are described by writer Matthew Stadler when he wrote that “literature isn’t made by writers, but readers. Only in reading does our encounter with the written word gain its political dimension.” This reminds us that reading together, whether silently or aloud, forces us to interact, to respect the times and rhythms of others, to learn new words and their sounds, and to think anew. In doing so, we rediscover diverse territories of empathy that become visible when visiting these spaces of encounter, where we learn that we can host otherness as part of the self. Places where comradeship is a means instead of an end.

Article written by Ethel Baraona and César Reyes for The Architectural Review, issue 1457, December 2018/January 2019 on Books + AR Library.

Title: Spaces of Encounter

Date: January 2019

Publisher: The Architectural Review