Monday, 2 July 2012

Packing my library

2 July

In twenty days I fly out to Tainan, and I am faced with a greater version of the problem that always overwhelms me before I travel anywhere.  This is, exactly what books do I take?  From the day I went to a second-hand bookshop in central Liverpool sometime in the 1960's and bought The Lost World by Conan Doyle I have been in love with books, and they are now an important source for my work and ideas.  And so I am trying to decide which books will I need for the lectures, which books do I think will be in the University Library, and which books do I need from a personal perspective, the books that enable me to reflect upon myself.  Overall this hang the twin problems of finance and shipping, what can I afford to ship?  I know with certainty that I will unpack the boxes in a couple of months time and wonder why I chose that book, and where is the really important one I need for the work?  
Of course once I am in Taiwan I will begin to buy more books, and every trip back to the UK will also be an excuse to go book hunting, wandering through the second-hand places in Liverpool.  Even in these days of the hegemony of Amazon nothing can replace the serendipity of the second-hand bookshop, and in Liverpool the same dealers still remain.  I first strolled into these wonderful caves of volumes in 1985, and they are still there, with the same people greeting you as if you had just popped out to get a sandwich in one of the many new Tesco Express stores that litter the new shopping malls, rather than having returned after an absence of many years.
But now I must return to the present problem, and am now finding the book boxes I only unpacked seven months ago.  Ah, the life of the nomad.  Time to read Walter Benjamin on Unpacking his Library.

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