The Loss Library, by Ivan Vladislavic
The Loss Library is an experiment on writing a book about the stories South African author Ivan Vladislavic could not write, with thoughts on what prevented him.
The Loss Library
She's pretty, this librarian, the young man thinks, sun-browned and outdoorsy, with none of the papery pallor he associates with the profession. Perhaps she goes waterskiing or horse-riding on the weekend, or perhaps she has interests even more at odds with book-tending, like fire-eating or swordplay. Her high heels are as sharp as nails. Not very sensible, he thinks. 'We don't need to be sensible here,' she says. 'This way please.' He follows her down a corridor, his eyes on her supple calves, and they stop before a locked door. She takes a key from a pocket of her dustcoat, pauses - for effect, he supposes - and unlocks the door. The room beyond is long and narrow. Parquet gleams underfoot as if winter sunlight is falling from high windows, although the walls are blank. Against the far wall is a glass-fronted cabinet. In the doorway, the librarian steps out of her heels into a large pair of sheepskin slippers and motions the young man to do the same. There are a dozen pairs moored like dinghies to the skirting board. He stoops to unlace his boots but she tells him not to bother, and so he hunts for the largest pair of slippers and steps into them boots and all. It is impossible to walk normally in the loose-fitting slippers: they have to shuffle. In slow, gliding steps they cross to the cabinet. 'We like to start here,' she says, 'because the idea is easy to grasp.' She pauses so that he can take in the books behind the glass, before she goes on with the cheery authority of a tour guide: 'These are the lost books, the ones that would have been written had their writers not died young. Arranged alphabetically and classified by cause of death.' A wave of her slender hand. 'Accidental death. Booze, of course. Disease -those old standbys, consumption and syphilis, and the new one, Aids, a growing collection. Duels - little sign of growth there. Motor accidents. Murder. Suicide. A disproportionate number of Russians and Japanese, as you'd expect, and quite a few of your countrymen and women too.' The young man leans closer to the glass and a misty speech bubble forms before his mouth. 'Any special interests?' she asks. 'Poetry or prose? The mature work of Keats? That's a drawcard.' He looks at the regular rows of plain, sturdy spines. He cannot make out the titles: the words run together as he reads them. 'Looking for someone in particular?' 'Bruno Schulz, the Polish...' - 'I know who he is. Lovely choice, very popular. He'll be down there among the war dead. Let's see, Schouwen, Schuitevoerder, Schulmann - quite a roll-call and none of them known at all, I'm sorry to say. All turned up their toes before they published a book. nip. See the green dot? That means "never in print". If you knew half of what we've lost, you'd run out of here weeping. Here we are, Schulz, B. These six little volumes.' He wipes the misty bubble away with his fingertips and looks at a row of identical leaf-green books. He makes out the author's name on the spines, because he knows what he's looking at, but the titles blur and fade. Squinting does not bring them into focus. 'May I look at one of them?' - 'Oh no! That's not allowed at all. If you were a close relative, let's say a brother or a son, we might make an exception and let you hold something for a minute, under strict supervision. Once a year we open the cabinets for dusting and I can't tell you what a performance it is. [...]
This is an excerot from the book: The Loss Library, by Ivan Vladislavic.
Title: The Loss Library
Author: Ivan Vladislavic
Genre: Short Story
Publisher: Random House Struik
Cape Town, South Africa 2011
ISBN 9781415201626 / ISBN 978-1-4152-0162-6
Softcover, 13 x 22 cm, 112 pages
Vladislavic, Ivan im Namibiana-Buchangebot
In The Loss Library, Ivan Vladislavić examines lost fictions, stories that go missing or are never completed. A meditation on creativity, mortality and the allure of the incomplete.
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