Victor Brombert, New Yorker:

In 1941, a week or two after my family’s safe arrival in New York Harbor on a freighter overcrowded with refugees escaping from Nazi-occupied countries, an old friend of my parents took us on an excursion to a small town in New Jersey. He parked his car on what I now know to be Witherspoon Street, near the corner facing the Princeton campus. Looking at the scene of university life before me then, I was struck by the confident gait of figures in tweed jackets moving along the alleys, carrying books and briefcases. No hurry, no sombre faces. Without my realizing it at the time, a series of idyllic images settled in my mind, and I carried them with me throughout the war, all the way to devastated Berlin, where, in the fall of 1945, I determined that this was the kind of life I wanted: to live with books, to study, to learn, perchance to teach.

… A sonnet by William Wordsworth extols the contentment of students in their “pensive citadels” — strongholds not for the exercise of power or for war but for the joy of studies.

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