A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.

  • Sumo

I think we should read only those books that wound and stab us. If the book we read doesn’t wake us up with a punch to the head, why are we reading it? In order to make us happy, as you said? We would be happy even if we had no books at all, and as for books that might make us happy, we could, if necessary, write them ourselves. We need books that affect us like a misfortune, books that make us deeply mourn, as with the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, or like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. So I believe.

—Kafka, Letter to Oskar Pollak, 27 January 1904