Hippocrates would be skeptical, Kafka would be less, Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin believe it strongly: you can be cured with books. They are the authors of the volume The novel cure – An A-Z of Literary Remedies where they talk about book therapy, the art, so to speak, to treat themselves with books. The Italian writer Fabio Stassi has edited the Italian edition and we asked him a few questions.
Bibliotherapy, or curing with books. Where did the idea come from and how long is it used?
Bibliotherapy was born in the United States in the thirties of last century. Before psychoanalysis already used tales therapy and, going back in time, it gets even to Greek myths. But the idea of this book that raises it’s in fact, before anything else, a declaration of love to literature, novel and the soothing power of words.
It is a treatment that can be self-prescribed?
Often friends recommend readings. They do it for passion, because they are in love with a book, an author of a story, and they want to share it. And while this is a generous gesture and somehow beneficial. But other times, when a friend recommends a book, he is doing a diagnosis, he believes to sense what you need, at that time, he hopes to help. Alone is more difficult. But I believe the case. I think the best books are met by chance. The Brazilians say that there is a soul in every coincidence. You just have to go to the appointment, walk into a bookstore, wandering in front of a bank of antiquarian books. Something will happen.
What do you cure with bibliotherapy? We are talking about the evils of the soul or physical ailments?
The first thing that you can cure is the disease of our times, the vortex of the ego and egocentrism. Wearing the shoes of a character you leave yourself, you learn to relativize, they make other experiences, you live other lives.
It may be considered a branch of psychotherapy or a world apart?
I am just a writer but a psychotherapist told me that we dream a lot less than once and that we replace the work that once was done on dreams with discussions on a common reading. After all, the novel is a vision. They understand many things as a player crosses that vision.
A book anti insomnia, one for a disappointment in love, and one for those who suffer from chronic envy
For insomnia, The House of Sleep Jonathan Coe, for a love disappointment, The sense of an ending by Julian Barnes; for those suffering from chronic envy Mastro Don Gesualdo.
Empty the medicine cabinet and fill your library!