8: The Fate of Literature

Good-bye little books. See you sometime this summer, way across the ocean.

For months we have agonized over what to do with the little Swiss library we have amassed. Our dedication to this matter is all out of proportion to its long-ranging consequences.

We could leave Alice, Tom and Irene (Munro, Boyle and Nemirovsky) here in our hotel library and they would live quiet purposeful lives entertaining the hotel’s English-reading guests for years to come. That is the altruistic thing to do, but we have not done it.

Our attachment to our books is inexplicable even to us, and so while we have whittled away at the lesser authors – who shall remain nameless just in case we should ever meet – Alice, Tom, Irene and the rest of our favored tribe are at this moment heading for Canada via Swiss Post’s slow-boat system. We love our books, but we’re still careful financial managers so they travel economy class, the same as us.

The cost is only 58 Swiss Francs – quite a bit less than the courier bill that was estimated at almost 500 Francs (although that included our full pre-pared-down library so it is not an apples-to-oranges measure). And sadly, if Swiss Post cannot find our little cottage in Ontario, the destination for the books, we left instructions to treat them as ‘abandoned.’ Even checking that box on the Swiss Post export form depressed me a little bit.

Why is it so hard to part with books?


4 thoughts on “8: The Fate of Literature

  1. Eight years later, I realise Umberdinho thought this post was about stealing books from the hotel library. Heaven forbid. The books we took were those we bought in Switzerland. We left a bunch there in the hotel library, which, when we visited again seven years later, we noticed were all gone. Pilfered? Decluttered? We’ll never know.

  2. I, too, have been smitten with books from as far back as I can rembemer. And don’t be ashamed about the stealing thing; you do what you’ve got to do. I shall follow your blog with keen interest.

  3. And to add to Lori’s thoughts, the words and ideas and experiences books convey put something of themselves into us. Some of my most cherished mentors are authors long gone but whose words live on for their timelessness and succinct way of saying something in a way I could not but feel nonetheless. It’s not easy to let go of dear friends in the “setting” we first encounter them and so we keep them on our shelves to revisit at some future date.

  4. When you read a good book, you put something of yourself into it; it’s not easy to let that go. Our generation (ie, before e-books) was taught to revere the actual book, to treat it with respect, to honour it, collect it. People with personal libraries were thought of as intellectuals, not to say, rich. To have lots of books was to be wealthy in the mind at least.

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