The premise of George Steiner’s Portage is a bit strange, but the writing is so beautiful. I selected some of my favourite excerpts to share with you. I hope you like them too! Maybe, if you like them enough, you can read the whole book, but if you haven’t the time, this might capture the essence of Steiner’s writing.He carried the still in his mind, perfectly framed, ready for the long touch of his senses. A table fifty yards from the corner of the Place Furstenberg, the trefoil silhouette of the street lamps almost touching the red-and-white tablecloth. A little while earlier he had walked past the Librairie des Saint-Peres and seen his monograph newly displayed in the window….The cold earth savor of pate was in his nostrils, the sunlight shivered into small eddies and crystals of red fire as it passed through the glass of Gigondas, the bread was new as morning, the chimes of St. Etienne were striking half-past one, their dry ivory note still clear behind the splash of the fountain. This perfect moment outweighing eternity, richer than damnation. And she was sitting across the table from him, waiting for Gideon to take the first bite, her hair smoke-brown as September grass, hooded in the soft dartings and quivering of the sun, her hand laid next to his, the cuff of her blouse closed with a charm, an ancient hammered thing of silver which, only an hour hence, in the sudden dark of their room, he would fumble at and unclasp… Yet the snapshot glittered inside him with a weird pressure of life. It arrested in a waking dream the otherness of the world, the illusion of total possibility without which the soul falls to a dusty heap. To sit at that particular table and smell the summer in the wine, to write that book and hear the rustle of paper and fireman’s fanfare of literary acclaim–gloire has the shape of a fireman’s helmet–to lie with such a woman in the sea noises of a Paris afternoon, these were indispensable longings. That post card, sharp in every line, was Gideon’s remembrance of the life to come. Music is freedom in/from time. All other human activities and sensations have in them a temporal axis. A linear thread of time sequence runs through them. But it is a thread from outside, from a system of coordinates already established and often alien to their nature. Even a dream, even a bout of delirium does not create its own time. It merely compresses or distorts an outwardly determined temporality. Time pulsates in a crystal and flattens space in the center of the galaxy. No reality is accessible to human understanding outside the a priori grid of time, says Immanuel Kant. No reality except one. That of music…A piece of music takes time but not in the ordinary sense, not in reference to the clock. It sets itself a cross the general flow of time in which we conduct our regimented lives with a specific assertion of freedom so absolute as to dwarf other pretenses at liberty be they political, private, orgiastic. Music is the only reality perceptible to man that governs time. It draws out of our flesh that arrow of past-present-future implanted at the instant of birth and speeding away from us in outrageous anonymity at the moment of death….When we listen to music we are at once within and wholly outside the banal sovereignty of our clocks. They drink life in small sips with just a touch of sugar, thank you, and perhaps a dash of milk. As if there were only a little left in the pot. Like trapped miners saving air. They who have grown up secure, who have had everything. Cancer is an unfocused excess of life, no more and no less. Measure is the final aristocracy of man. And Ascher recalled the unnamed bloom, sultry gold and with leaves delicate as gossamer, which had shone before them at the edge of the swamps, or the silent rush of stars into the perfect concavity of the drumming lake, or the tenebra of a bird, out of sight in the canopies of high moss, the notes arrowing toward nightfall, velvet and swift. A guest out of Eden.