Nov 18 2010

A Moth and a bookcase

This excerpt is from Todorov’s Zift: Socialist Noir. Because there is nothing more noir than a filled bookcase in a socialist country. The character speaking is called “Moth.”

On the wall across from the cabinet was a dusty bookcase containing all sorts of books. It gave me pleasure and peace of mind to sniff old books, to read their titles, feel their spines, inhale their dust. The smell of a well-bound book cures the ailing soul. I don’t know why, but it’s a fact already recognized in olden times by the monks who invented the ingredients of the glue used to bind books. Old books breathe, and that’s why they smell; their breath is dusty because  it’s ancient.

My fingers started roaming the shelves and my eyes were chasing after them. I pulled out volumes at random, browsing and sniffing them, until suddenly I noticed a book placed upside down, with the letters facing downward. It was a volume of letters from jail by the poet-rebel Venets Tsvetarski, sentenced to death for revolutionary activity. It was titled Tenderness and Clamor, compiled by Bozhura Chepinska, a favorite sweetheart of the poet and a poet herself, published in Vienna in 1925.

I open the volume to the ribbon bookmark, turn on the desk lamp for added coziness, settle down comfortably in the armchair, and begin to read.