Thursday, May 26, 2011


With my recent move I've donated and given away a few bags of books. Most of my collection sits in my old family home, now inhabited by my father and his girlfriend. I haven't gone back in 5 years and I don't know if he has thrown them out, or what condition those books are in if they're still there. The books I left behind are mostly classics (Austen, Dickens, Lawrence, Joyce, Woolf...), and some modern day and contemporary ones as well. There're several of them that I wish I had taken with me, like Rosemary Edmonds' translation of Anna Karenina (I'm not a fan of Tolstoy, but I do think it's one of the greatest novels ever written and it changed my life when I read it at 22), Madame Bovary (I picked it up at 15 and the world was never the same again), Their Eyes Were Watching God (we all have the right to hope, don't we?) and a few others.

The one book that I regret losing--it irks me to this day--is The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I read and loved it like crazy in my university days. A couple years later I left it in Melbourne, where I once thought would be my home, and the man wouldn't mail it back to me. ('Please? It has sentimental value for me'). The cover was that photo of Joyce as a young man, wearing a cap and a vaguely smirky smile, you guys must know which one. Once you owned and loved and spent your days with a book like that, you wouldn't want to get another copy. No!

Last night I sorted out my bookshelf in the new place. If I have to choose, say, 10 books out of this  lot that I'd bring with me wherever I go, they would be:

Selected Prose and Poetry of Paul Celan
Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
Cuttlefish Bones by Eugenio Montale
The Captain's Verses by Pablo Neruda
The Best of Marina Tsvetaeva
Disgrace by J M Coetzee
Cathedral by Raymond Carver
Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories
First Love and other novellas by Samuel Beckett
...the last one is a tough choice but I'll choose Unseen Rain: Quatrains of Rumi over Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez,  Honored Guests by Joy Williams or my books of Seamus Heaney's poetry, because I bought the Rumi book in Istanbul, which makes it a special one for me. 

What about you?


  1. Joy Williams is so great, but she never gets enough mention -- so very glad to see her name here!

  2. That's a nice list. :) I would go for some Rumi too. I used to have a Rumi book here which wasn't mine, but belonged to my ex, and I gave it back to him but really I should have kept it because he didn't even know he had it; I found it under a bunch of junk and I'm sure it's sitting in a corner of his house rotting right now.

    I want to say Ovid's The Metamorphosis right now. That book is CRAZY. Fun. :)

  3. Hell of a list. I definitely feel you on the covers and how you form an attachment to that particular edition, and no other. All the more so now, that I so rarely buy actually dead tree books.