My own intelligence is quite minimal, a fact I have ascertained at great cost to myself. It has been just barely adequate to keep me afloat in the tempestuous waters of life. Yet, its quality is unique; not because I decided it would be, but rather because that is how it must be.

This is and always has been the case in just this way with all people, at all times, everywhere. A single example taken from the world of culture (and what other world should we take it from?) might help clarify this point. An intellectual’s uniqueness can be established by examining their combined readings. How many people can there be in the world who have read these two books: The Philosophy of Life Experience by A. Bogdanov, and Faust by Estanislao del Campo? Let us put aside, for the moment, any reflections these books might have provoked, how they resonated or were assimilated, all of which would necessarily be personal and nontransferable. Let us instead turn to the raw fact of the two books themselves. The concurrence of both in one reader is improbable, insofar as they belong to two distinct cultural environments and neither belongs to the canon of universal classics. Even so, it is possible that one or two dozen intellectuals across a wide swathe of time and space might have taken in this twin nourishment. As soon as we add a third book, however, let us say La Poussière de soleil by Raymond Roussel, that number becomes drastically reduced. If it is not “one” (that is, I), it will come very close. Perhaps it is “two,” and I would have good reason to call the other “mon semblable, mon frère.” One more book, a fourth, and I could be absolutely certain of my solitude. But I have not read four books; chance and curiosity have placed thousands in my hands.

The Literary Conference, César Aira