Saturday, July 30, 2011

Notes for a Commonplace Book (9)

On the care of books:

When in 1773 the Society of Jesus was ordered dissolved, the books stored in the Society's house in Brussels were taken to the Royal Library of Belgium, where it was found that there was no place to house them. As a result, they were brought to an old church that was infested with mice. The librarians came up with a plan to protect the most valuable books, which they placed at the center of the nave, arranged on bookshelves. The dispensable volumes were then piled on the floor in concentric circles, so that the mice could gnaw away at them, thus preserving the ones in the interior intact.

I don't know if it worked.

From Jesús Marchamalo, Tocar los libros.

[Aurora Bernárdez and Julio Cortázar] traveled through Italy in the mid-1950s, moving by train from one city to another. In order not to have to carry unnecessary weight with them they decided to buy books in the kiosks in the stations. They chose inexpensive editions, on cheap paper and badly bound, which they would read together during their trips. Julio would almost always begin. As he turned each page he would rip it from the book and pass it to Aurora, who would read it and then toss it out the window.

That flying library, secret and invisible, has always seemed to me a metaphor of Cortázar: the leaves carried off by the wind.

And I'm tempted by the idea of retracing that journey through Italy, starting from the South, following the rail lines that were splashed with pages from that reader, Cortázar, who sent them marching out the open window while his gaze was lost in the landscape, at times, from the interior of the train.

From Jesús Marchamalo, Cortázar y los libros.

(These are very loose translations.)

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