Sunday, July 1, 2007
When I left Mr. Bahri that afternoon, I walked for about forty-five minutes and stopped at my favorite English bookstore. I went in there on a sudden inspiration, fearful that I might not have the opportunity to do so in the near future. And I was right: only a few months later, the Revolutionary Guards raided the bookstore and closed it down. The big iron bolt and chain they installed on a door signified the finality of their action.
I started picking books up with greedy urgency. I went after the paperbacks, collecting almost all the Jameses and all six novels by Austen. I picked up Howard's End and A Room with a View. Then I went after ones I had not read, four novels by Heinrich Boll, and some I had read a long time ago--Vanity Fair and The Adventures of Roderick Random, Humboldt's Gift and Henderson the Rain King. I picked up a bilingual selection of Rilke's poems and Nabokov's Speak, Memory. I even lingered for a while debating over an unexpurgated copy of Fanny Hill. Then I went after the mysteries. I picked up some Dorothy Sayers and, to my utter delight, found Trent's Last Case, two or three new Agatha Christies, a selection of Ross MacDonalds, all of Raymond Chandler and two Dashiell Hammetts.
I didn't have enough money to pay for them all. I took the few I could afford and refused the bookstore owner's very gallant offer to take the rest on credit. As he placed the books I had put on hold in two large paper bags, he smiled with amusement and told me, Don't worry; no one is going to take these away from you. No one knows who they are anymore. Besides, who wants to read them now, at this time?