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Librotrauer: Basil McBride's Word of the Week

Updated: Mar 3

All words are essentially made-up. Language is typically the result of social negotiation, unless you’re James Joyce or, in this case, the boys operating the lexikula page, who have invented the word ‘librotrauer’, which, according to them, is the feeling that comes when you enter a big library and realise how many books there are that you’ll never read, and thus, how little you’ll really end up knowing. The etymology of this word comes from the Italian word libro, meaning book, and the German word trauer, meaning sadness.

Be the hokey! It must be a frightful feeling, librotrauer; a condition reserved for illiterate sods. Naturally, I wouldn’t know the first thing about it, having read all the books. Yes, that is correct: I have read all the books. Not literally, of course. What I mean to say is, I have read all the books that matter. As the aptly named Christopher Booker has observed, there are only seven books that one must read to have effectively read all the books. You see, all essential literature has already been written – many times over, in fact. The latest literature is typically a contemporary rendition of subjects that have already been told. Generally speaking, it is relevant to the time and for this reason, is “better” than the material that precedes it. The seven types are listed as follows:

1. Overcoming the monster (i.e., Beowulf, Dracula, James Bond, Star Wars)

2. Rags to riches (i.e., Cinderella, Aladdin, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations)

3. The quest (i.e., The Iliad, The Divine Comedy, The Lord of the Rings, Raiders of the Lost Ark)

4. Voyage and return (i.e., The Odyssey, The Lion King, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

5. Comedy (i.e., A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Big Lebowski)

6. Tragedy (i.e., Anna Karenina, Hamlet, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Citizen Kane)

7. Rebirth (i.e., Pride and Prejudice, The Frog Prince, A Christmas Carol, Groundhog Day)

If you’re selective with your reading list, you could find books that contain two or three of the aforementioned plot types in one, meaning you wouldn't even need to read all seven. People’s personal libraries should be small, formed with diligent discernment, but above all else, the books must be helpful. Ask yourself: what value is to be found in the book? How does it add to my life? The well-read individual isn’t necessarily someone who reads two or three books a week – it is the individual who reads two or three books in a lifetime. In short, be a book snob – and choose wisely! Do this, and you shouldn’t feel any degree of librotrauer.

Let us know how you get on, and thanks to Chris Black for drawing my attention to the word. Shout out to the people at lexikula for their interesting page. Keep making up words!


B. McBride

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