Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Packing Your Life Away

On Books

Books On A Shelf: We reside in a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto, which has
seven bookshelves crammed with books. I bought the last bookshelf after moving here,
and it is already filled to capacity. I might have to either give away some books before
I purchase new ones or finally use my e-reader, which sits on one of my shelves collecting dust.
Photo Credit: Perry J. Greenbaum

An article, by Linda Grant, in The Guardian gives us book lovers something to think about, notably, the decisions we must make on which books to keep and which books to give away, when it is necessary to move to smaller quarters. No one rational would consider this a major problem, but there is a feeling of sadness for some of us—some of the practically minded persons would consider this is a fetish or a sentimental love or bibliophilia—when we have to discard a book from our collection. A collection that for many of us represents decades in the making.

In "I have killed my books," Grant writes:
In the middle of my move I watched a documentary called The Flat. A family was clearing out the Tel Aviv apartment of a 97-year-old woman who had recently died. She had lived there for 70 years, since arriving from Germany in the 30s. The walls of the flat were lined with books published in her native language. Her grandson called in an antiquarian book dealer. He took the volumes off the shelf and hurled them with force to the floor. "No one reads Balzac," he said. "No one reads Shakespeare. Nobody wants Goethe. Know how many books they throw away in Germany?"

Who destroys books? Cities, churches, dictators and fanatics. Their fingers itch to build a pyre and strike the match. On 10 May 1933, students gathered in Berlin to dance around a bonfire of 25,000 "un‑German" books. They burned, among many others, Bertolt Brecht, Otto Dix, Heinrich Heine, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and HG Wells. They destroyed them because the contents were too dangerous. Now, in an apartment on the Mediterranean, the same authors were being dumped because no one wanted to read them. They are the detritus not just of the digital revolution but of disposable living and small houses.

And I, too, have committed murder in my library. I have killed my books.

The little girl who lay in bed, a circle of illumination on the sheets from her toadstool nightlight, afraid to go to sleep because her Struwwelpeter picture book lay next to her in the dark confinement of the ottoman with her toys, frightened of the scissorman who cuts off the thumbs of children who suck them – that small person who understood, even before she could read, the power of a book, has just liquidated half her own.
I also watched this Israeli documentary, and was saddened by the words of the antiquarian book dealer. Tastes change, I guess. I, too, have on a couple of occasions given away books before moving to other residences, and I, too, have had to be ruthless when making such decisions. The books we read are connected to a memory of a time and a place when we read them and, equally important, what was taking place in our personal lives. Often, these memories are happy, but not always. But this past moment might have been a time of transition or change. Thus, there is a sense that we are giving away a part of ourselves. An important part.  A sense of loss.

It might seem all pretty foolish and sentimental to some of you.

You can read the rest of the article at [The Guardian].

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