One of the best things about getting your own place is that your books finally have somewhere to settle.
Between moving out of my mum’s place and moving into our very own home with Andy, I spent twelve years not knowing what to do with all my new volumes. Books for university, books randomly bought at airports and books that were gifts — all of them had to be stored somewhere, at times moved from one rented apartment to another, waiting patiently for when they too would have a place of their own. At some point, they were spread between boxes at my father’s house in Warsaw, at my friends’ cellar in Sheffield, and at Andy’s parents’ attic in Sutton Coldfield.
Despite an acute aversion to accumulating most possessions, books are something I collect with love. Seeing our brand new shelves already tightly filled, a friend recently asked if it wouldn’t make more sense to give all of the old books away to make space for new ones. Perhaps it would, but it’s not something I’d do — that’s also why I try to invest in hardbacks, so I know they will last forever.
A recent discovery is that second-hand French books can be ordered cheaply off the Internet (unlike the English ones which tend to be quite expensive), and so I got myself a beautiful 1964 cloth-bound copy of Les Miserables. Incidentally, the edition is identical to the Polish translation that my grandmother bought for my mum long before I was born. It was one of the books I grew up with, read and reread many times, handled carefully before being put back on its place on the shelf. Dog ears and notes on the margins were out of the question. Hands had to be washed, no food or drink in sight.
Like many others, Les Miserables is a book that I read more times than I can remember, although never in French, and reading in the original always feels like reading for the first time. I will likely read it many times more, and having it at home is a comfort. After more than a decade of rented rooms and apartments, I’d go as far as calling it a luxury. Handing a well-bound hardback, especially one with pages yellowed with the passage of time, can give a peaceful sense of stability.
Still, I try to treat all of my books well, even the shitty paperbacks, and I hardly ever give any away. One of the few exceptions was Twilight which I found tossed into a rubbish bin on a Hong Kong street read more now →