Thursday, 13 May 2010

Libraries

When I was a kid, I never went to a public library. My parents had two small libraries –untouchable leather bound volumes that preened in glass-enclosed shelves of our sitting room, and shabby, paperbound, collection of world classics that had to be out of the way and was therefore ensconced in the kids’ room. The orange paper in which these were bound, attractive to children, was misleading. Between cheery covers, Sartre, Goethe, Camus, Flaubert, Pushkin, Voltaire, and other not-so-children-friendly writers pursued their haunting thoughts without concern for an incapacity of a child-mind trying to grasp them. I won’t go into a serious character deformation these must have caused, but as a kid I felt I had all the books I needed. I touched even the ‘untouchable’ volumes despite my parents’ worry that I may ‘ruin’ them because of my habit of dragging them to the beach or reading while eating chocolate hazelnut spread, the stickiness of which was a sure threat do a dignity of any leather-bound volume. There were plenty of books for me. So the fact of not going to the library never bothered me much until as an adult I found myself in one.

It was a bit like a religious experience. Tall ceilings, imposing windows, rows of books, wooden tables with green lamps that loomed like ancient scholars bent over their ancient work. And silence, silence, everywhere silence. It was then that I realized that libraries are not just about the books. Yes, they are about the books, about voices from around the world that invite you into to slip between their covers, voices from the places one has not heard about, from people one could not have imagined. But it was the silence - being away from voices of one’s family, friends, inner voices of home-bound concerns, things to do, being away from voices that fills one’s mind so persistently and steadily that one mistakes them for one’s own – it was the silence that shocked me into listening, very hard, for faint whispers of a voice of my own.

I still love libraries and enter them, be they small or large, like a pilgrim that I am, forever grateful for their impregnable, mysterious, silence.

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2 comments:

Me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K8 said...

I love this post, I have similar memories of my childhood and books :) and I'm in love with libraries.
I couldn't agree more with this part - "But it was the silence - being away from voices of one’s family, friends, inner voices of home-bound concerns, things to do, being away from voices that fills one’s mind so persistently and steadily that one mistakes them for one’s own – it was the silence that shocked me into listening, very hard, for faint whispers of a voice of my own."
Perfection :)
Bye,
Katarina

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