The home library of William Randolph Hearst. I would argue that public libraries, holding both virtual and material texts, are an essential instrument to counter loneliness. I would say that without public libraries, and without a conscious understanding of their role, a society of the written word is doomed to oblivion. I realize how petty, how egotistical it seems, this longing to own the books I borrow. But I can work happily only in my own private library, with my own books—or, rather, with the books I know to be mine. My library was my tortoise shell.
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The home library of William Randolph Hearst. I would argue that public libraries, holding both virtual and material texts, are an essential instrument to counter loneliness. I would say that without public libraries, and without a conscious understanding of their role, a society of the written word is doomed to oblivion.
I realize how petty, how egotistical it seems, this longing to own the books I borrow. But I can work happily only in my own private library, with my own books—or, rather, with the books I know to be mine. My library was my tortoise shell. Packing and unpacking are two sides of the same impulse, and both lend meaning to moments of chaos. Unpacking, as Benjamin realized, is essentially an expansive and untidy activity.
Freed from their bounds, the books spill onto the floor or pile up in unsteady columns, waiting for the places that will later be assigned to them. In this waiting period, before the new order has been established, they exist in a tangle of synchronicities and remembrances, forming sudden and unexpected alliances or parting from each other incongruously. The unpacking of books, perhaps because it is essentially chaotic, is a creative act, and as in every creative act, the materials employed lose in the process their individual nature: they become part of something different, something that encompasses and at the same time transforms them.
In the act of setting up a library, the books lifted out of their boxes and about to be placed on a shelf shed their original identities and acquire new ones through random associations, preconceived allotments, or authoritarian labels. This is anarchy under the appearance of order. My copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth, read for the first time many decades ago, became in its alphabetically ordered section a stern companion of Vercors and Verlaine, ranking higher than Marguerite Yourcenar and Zola but lower than Stendhal and Nathalie Sarraute, all members of the conventional fraternity of French-language literature.
My memory retains the order and classification of my remembered library and performs the rituals as if the physical place still existed. I still keep the key to a door that I will never open again. Places that seem essential to us resist even material destruction. When in B. It is told that a hand came out and caught them, after which the priests threw themselves into the all-consuming flames.
After the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus in 70 A. And ever since the destruction, a prayer for the building of a third temple has been a formal part of the thrice-daily Jewish service. Loss entails hope as well as remembrance. Memories of the cities in which he found his treasures, memories of the auction rooms in which he bought several of them, memories of the past rooms in which his books were kept. The book I take out of the box to which it was consigned, in the brief moment before I give it its rightful place, turns suddenly in my hands into a token, a keepsake, a relic, a piece of DNA from which an entire body can be rebuilt.
Alberto Manguel is a writer, translator, editor, and critic but would rather define himself as a reader and a lover of books. He is now the director of the National Library of Argentina.
For class blog: https://artx227.wordpress.com/
Collections are rarely begun without some attachment to the object, some memory tied to the physical thing. Even within large book collections, the fringes are made up of albums, non-bound books, and other things that could be construed as meaningless to anyone other than the owner. Collections are not things that are useful everyday. Collections have some level of sacredness, in that they are set apart from the profane and daily.
The Long(ish) Read: Walter Benjamin Unpacking his Library
Hannah Arendt. Schocken Books; New York, Pg Walter Benjamin belongs to a group of people who he feels is becoming extinct.