One Sunday after church, when I was twelve years old, my father and I walked up the sweeping staircase inside the town hall. We were looking for the public library. I was terribly excited, we’d never been there before. We couldn’t hear anything on the other side of the door. All the same my father pushed it open. It was completely quiet in the room, quieter even than in church. The floorboards creaked and there was a strange, musty smell in the air. Perched behind a high desk barring access to the shelves, two men watched us approach. My father let me say: ‘We’d like to borrow some books.’ One of them immediately asked: ‘What books do you want?’ At home it hadn’t occurred to us that we had to prepare a list and reel of titles as easily as if they had been brands of biscuits. They chose the books for us: “Colomba” for me and a “light” novel by Maupassant for my father. We never went back to the library. My mother must have returned the books, maybe when they were overdue.
A Man’s Place Annie Ernaux , Translator is Tanya Leslie
( I posted this on Facebook on 22 Feb 2023. It resulted in a fascinating conversation with Miguel M. Abrahão. )
24 Feb 2023