Saturday, 7 July 2012

The old books.

My mother finally got round to having her living room refurbished.

The old ceiling needed repairing for a while, and the state of the wallpaper was getting embarrassing.
People started making comments, you know.

And, as it often happens when you finally take a proper look at your home, she noticed a lot of things she did not really need, things that accumulated throughout many years, sitting there on shelves, gathering dust. She proudly told me how much junk she had thrown away.

It feels great, doesn't it, i agreed. And then, we got stuck.

What do i do with all these books, she said.

In my childhood, the big library was the focal point of any intelligentsia's flat. My auntie was particularly rich. She had the complete volume sets of Alexandre Dumas, Pushkin, Dostoyevskiy...everyone you can think of. And she had probably read them all, too.

In the times of my childhood, books meant so much more to us than money, crystal glasses or gold.

What do i do with them all? My mother asked and we were lost, nostalgic for a moment, stuck between our past and current lives, torn between the old habits and the new circumstances.

You don't throw books away. Your library is your treasure, your collection of priceless pieces you keep forever. To pass on to your children. But, we corrected ourselves, what is the point now, for us? Not only would I not really be shipping all those books to wherever i currently happen to live these days...but also, let's be realistic, my children would never be reading them in Russian.

And yet, it felt wrong, somehow. Throwing away all those books felt like we would forever close that door. The door to our past- with no ibooks, newspapers online or smart phones. The past of the Soviet childhood, rare sets of books, prestigious and not, expensive and collectible... The past where we dusted those bookshelves and arranged the favourite hardcovers by height, admiring the quality of the special editions and the colours of the hardcovers.

How many years we collected those books! How difficult it was to find a certain author's complete set of all the volumes! "Who is going to read them now?" My mother said, with only a slight note of sadness in her voice.

 Up to you, i said. If you are ready to rid of them, just do it.

But we both knew she probably could not.

Now, she said, her tone suddenly changing, You promised days ago! to teach me how to install Angry Birds Seasons on the Ipad... Hmm...yes, times have definitely changed.


  1. That does bring back a lot of memories. I remember devouring Gianni Rodari's stories on my summer vacation (we got those and many other books after turning in a stack of "makulatura"). Blissful days. Things have changed so much. My husband bought me a Nook but somehow reading books on it does not feel the same. I still read paper books any chance I get. I am a dinosaur :)

    1. I do, too. I downloaded something on iPad months ago, and still can't finish it. just not the same.

  2. i remember when i too was faced with the same dilemma when i was moving to Canada, and that after much thinking, my mother and i gave some to the local school library and the rest, more advanced books so to speak, left by the doors of my favorite physics/maths teacher, 81 at that time, who we thought would find a home for them...sadly, i haven't been back to check up on them since '96...

    jahan from Alberta.

  3. Your story remind me "451 Fahrenheit " :-(

  4. Every time we feel an era has come to an end, it's invebitable to be somehow blue. But, times change and we have to go with it, or get stuck in the past.

  5. I have certainly been at that point that you describe... I love donating books that were special to me to friends with whom they'd resonate. The rest go to used bookstores and the very beloved ones make the long trips to the next destination. Figuring out which books should go into which pile is always interesting, though!

  6. True that time changes habbits - I read books on kindle these days..but I still have bookshelf in my house back in Baku with old books from my Soviet childhood :)and I should say that this bookshelf became a center point of my house, anyone has ever been in my house never left that bookshelf without a seems that it reminds everyone about the past and without it there is no future...