Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz


“Perhaps they were right putting love into books. Perhaps it could not live anywhere else.”
— William Faulkner

 I know I said that I’m not one to read through other’s recommendations but I might change my mind about that. I met an old friend last week and just as the night was getting deeper and we were about to head our respective ways, she said, “You should read Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe, it’s my favourite read of the year”. I have no idea why I followed through but I am beyond glad that I did, because it led me to one of my favourite reads of this year. It was one of those books that consumed my life – I read it in autos, while waiting on people, every spare moment I had. And before I realised it, the story had found its end. 2 days. That’s all I got in reality, but truly ensorcelled for the rest of times.

 Ari, Aristotle, a defiant boy who felt so lost in this world of adults and kept everything locked away starts blooming when he meets Dante, a boy whose love for life is potent. The author, Benjamin Alire Sáenz makes poetry through his prose, telling the story of two boys while never discounting the human-ness of adults. 

 “Words were different when they lived inside of you”.

 Sáenz treats his words, his characters and the emotions with respect, letting them flounder but also being able to hold them and make them speak, haltingly, vulnerably. Maybe Faulkner was right, a love so beautiful, could only exist in books. The book brings back that innocence of youth, a wonderment of the universe even when it’s as Dante says, inscrutable. 

 “I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys”.

 Everything about this book was beautiful, all of it. Even the pain. Even the alone. Even the lost.