|Besides which, I think old shit is cool.|
But I digress - as I always do, especially when talking about books, one of my favourite subjects! Anyway, I darted into Keith Fawkes and promptly had to make my way through a mass of books. It's a squeeze in that shop, it really is: despite taking up three places it's only on one floor and books are crammed everywhere. They don't quite fit on the shelves that stretch far above my head (in fairness, I'm annoyingly short), so books are plonked in boxes and keep threatening to slide onto the floor in a heap of second-hand literature. Despite there being books behind the shopkeeper and on the counter, and despite my buying up most of the shop (let me in a bookshop with infinite time, money and space and I'll have bought a fair amount of their stuff), there really is never enough space.
The First Circle. And all with a discount too! (Keith Fawkes is very nice about offering discounts on already cheap books.)
Well, why am I not talking about Chekhov or Mann? Why am I talking about Solzhenitsyn? It's a banal little tale, but I intend to bore you with it anyway. You see, my copy of The First Circle has seen some use and when I bought it some of the pages were falling out. As soon as I got home, I sellotaped those pages back together and in the process, well...I couldn't avoid the smell of the pages or getting a glimpse of Solzhenitsyn's prose, and it moved me profoundly.
Up till the age of about ten, I mostly read children's books and popular science. (Incidentally, one of my favourite pop-science books back then was Descartes' Baby by Paul Bloom, which I used to read over and over again and which I can't bear to get rid of because of its sentimental value.) Then my mother started encouraging me to look at Solzhenitsyn. A curious child, I was fairly happy to if my memory serves me correctly, and at one point I got One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich out of the library.
Cancer Ward. The way he presented the characters, so rounded and so flawed, touched my heart. I read more classic literature then, too.
My love affair with his work cooled when I couldn't find any more of it, except for The Gulag Archipelago, and I found that less interesting than his other books - though I plan to rekindle it. But I am eternally thankful to my mother, and touched by Solzhenitsyn, for it was his writing that stirred my interest in classic literature and in Russian literature too. It was his writing that made me curious and eager to know more. It was his writing that made me buy piles upon piles of good books and sit there devouring them - and without those books I would not be the person I am today. Surprisingly enough, I'd be even worse.
Thank you, Solzhenitsyn.