Bookshelf |65| London, Malena

Malena, London

Malena, London

From the very start, everything was different with her. Not a figment this time,not some projection of your inner fancy, but a real person, and she imposed her reality on you the moment the two of you began to talk, which was one moment after the single acquaintance you had in common introduced you to each other in the lobby of the 92nd Street Y following a poetry reading, and because she was neither coy nor elusive, because she looked you in the eye and asserted herself as a wholly grounded presence, there was no way for you to turn her into something she was not–no way to invent her, as you had done with other women in the past, since she had already invented herself. Beautiful, yes, without question sublimely beautiful, a lean six-foot blonde with long, magnificent legs and the tiny wrists of a four-year-old, the biggest little person you had ever seen, or perhaps the littlest big person, and yet you were not looking at some remote object of female splendor,you were engaged in talking to a living, breathing human subject. Subject, not object, and therefore no delusions permitted. No deceptions possible. Intelligence is the human quality that cannot be faked, and once your eyes had adjusted to the dazzle of her beauty, you understood that this was a brilliant woman, one of the best minds you had ever met.

Winter Journal, Paul Auster


Bookshelf |64| Belgrade, Branko

Branko, Belgrade

Branko, Belgrade

Branko, Belgrade

Branko, Belgrade

She knew during her time in England, especially on sweltering days in the London summer, that she was missing the best years of her life in the best place she had known, the years when she would have most relished the salt water, the calm waves in the early morning, and enjoyed the ceremony her grandmother had made of family meals at the long table in the shade. She imagined herself sitting on one of the rocking chairs with a cat on her lap and the sound of crickets and the smell of cooking.

The Empty Family, Colm Toibin

Bookshelf |63| Texcoco, Minerva

Minerva, Texcoco

“…at our last awakening

into the house and gate of heaven,

to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,

where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;

no noise nor silence, but one equal music;

no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;

no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;

in the habitations of thy glory and dominion,

world without end.”


Sermons by John Donne


Bookshelf |61| Whitchurch, Julia and Nigel

Julia and Nigel, Whitchurch

“In fact, there are more than two chances – many more. I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.

Yes, the stories are dangerous, she was right. A book is a magic carpet that flies you off elsewhere. A book is a door. You open it. You step through. Do you come back?”

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson

Bookshelf |58| Hove, Jackie and Kim

DH I used watercolour because I wanted a flow from my hand, partly because of what I learnt of the Chinese attitude to painting. They say you need three things for paintings: the hand, the eye, and the heart. Two won’t do. A good eye and heart is not enough; neither is a good hand and eye. I thought that was very, very good. So I took up watercolour, which I had not used much before.

A Bigger Message Conversations with David Hockney, Martin Gayford

Bookshelf |56| Barcelona, Dimitrije

Dimitrije, Barcelona

Dimitrije, Barcelona

Thursday July 1st
Dominion Day (Canada)

Nigel has arranged for me to have a blind date with Sharon Botts. I am meeting her at the roller-skating rink on Saturday. I am dead nervous. I don’t know how to roller-skate – let alone make love.

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, Sue Townsend

Bookshelf |54| Paris, Orjenka

Orjenka, Paris

Polemicizing with the Stoics (and even more so with Nietzsche), J.L. Borges formulates their teachings as follows: “From time to time the world is destroyed by the flame that created it, and then is born again to experience the same history. Again the same molecular particles fuse, again they give form to stones, trees, people–even to virtues and days, because for the Greeks there is no noun without substance. Again each sword and each hero, again each trivial sleepless night.”

In this context the sequence of variability is without great significance. Nevertheless, I chose the sequence of spiritual rather than historical dates: as I have said, I discovered the history of David Neumann after writing the story of Boris Davidovich.

A Tomb For Boris Davidovich, Danilo Kiš

Orjenka, Paris

Orjenka, Paris

Orjenka, Paris

Orjenka, Paris

Orjenka, Paris

Bookshelf |53| Barcelona, Stefan

Stefan, Barcelona

Make use of whatever you find about you to express yourself, the images from your dreams and the things in your memory. If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches; for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place.

Letter to a young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

Stefan, Barcelona

Stefan, Barcelona

Bookshelf |52| Barcelona, Tamara

Tamara, Barcelona

‘A large crowd of us went to see Anna Alekseyevna off. She had already said goodbuy to her husband and children, and the train was about to leave at any moment. I rushed to her compartment to put a basket that she’d almost forgotten onto the luggage-rack. Now it was time to say farewell. When our eyes met we could hold ourselves back no longer. I embraced her and she pressed her face to my chest and the tears  just flowed. As I kissed her face, shoulders and hands that were wet with tears – oh, how miserable we both were! – I declared my love and realised, with a searing pain in my heart, how unnecessary, trivial and illusory everything that had stood in the way of our love had been. I understood that with love, if you start theorising about it, you must have a nobler, more meaningful starting-point than mere happiness or unhappiness, sin or virtue, as they are commonly understood. Otherwise it’s best not to theorise at all.

‘I kissed her for the last time, pressed her hand and we parted for ever. The train was already moving. I took a seat in the next compartment, which was empty, and cried until the first stop, where I got out and waked back to Sofino.’

A Russian Affair, story About Love, Anton Chekhov

Tamara, Barcelona

Tamara, Barcelona

Bookshelf |51| Barcelona, Raquel

Raquel, Barcelona

Feelings is the beginning of being. When there is being, then there is affection. When there is affection, then there is desire. When there is desire then man, women, and all beings are born and die therein.

The House of Yun Man (The Five Houses of Zen) in Classics of Buddhism and Zen, the Collected Translation of Thomas Clearly

Raquel, Barcelona

Bookshelf |50| Belgrade, Tanja

Tanja, Belgrade

For the first time, it occurred to me that people hold on to this identity of theirs so fiercely, precisely because they know that identities can be changed. That is why a new word should be circulated: integrity. Because even people with no identity, like myself, for instance, can have integrity. Identities are interchangeable, like passports. Integrities are not. And now, am I not right doctor? Say so yourself.

Nobody’s Home, Dubravka Ugresic

Tanja, Belgrade

Tanja, Belgrade

Bookshelf |49| London, Manja

Manja, London

During the war and in the years after, Herman had time enough to regret his behavior to his family. But basically he remained the same: without belief in himself or in the human race; a fatalistic hedonist who lived in pre suicidal gloom. Religions lied. Philosophy was bankrupt from the beginning. The idle promises of progress were no more than a spit in the face of the martyrs of all generations. If time is just a form of perception, or a category of reason, the past is as present as today: Cain continues to murder Abel.

Enemies, The Love Story, Isaac Bashevis Singer

Manja, London

Bookshelf |48| Barcelona, Paco

Paco, Barcelona

The working-day is thus not a constant, but a variable quantity. One of its parts, certainly, is determined by the working-time required for the reproduction of the labour-power of the laborer himself. But its total amount varies with the duration of the surplus-labour. The working-day is, therefore, determinable, but is, per se, indeterminate.

Capital, Karl Marx

Paco, Barcelona

Bookshelf |46| New York, Branko

Branko, New York

A dominant impulse on encountering beauty is the desire to hold on to it: to possess it and give weight in our lives. There is an urge to say, ‘I was here, I saw this and it mattered to me.’

But beauty is fugitive, it is frequently found in places to which we may never return or else it results from a rare conjunction of seasons, light and weather. How then to possess it, how to hold on to the floating train, the halva-like bricks or the English valley?

The Art of Travel, Alain De Botton

Branko, New York

Branko, New York

Bookshelf |45| New York, Sara & Djordje

Sara & Djordje, New York

Sometimes when he is among the sheep–when they have been rounded up to be dipped, and are penned tight and cannot get away–he wants to whisper to them, warn them of what lies in store. But then in their eyes he catches a glimpse of something that silences him: a resignation, a foreknowledge not only of what happens to sheep at the hands of Ros behind the shed, but of what awaits them at the end of the long, thirsty ride to Cape Town on the transport lorry. They know it all, down to the finest detail, and yet they submit. They have calculated the price and are prepared to pay it–the price of being on earth, the price of being alive.

Boyhood, J.M. Coetzee

Bookshelf |44| Belgrade, Gordana

Gordana, Belgrade

WHEN the shadow of the sash appeared on the curtains it was between seven and eight o’clock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch. It was Grandfather’s and when Father gave it to me he said, Quentin, I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it’s rather excrutiating-ly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father’s. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it.

The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

Gordana, Belgrade

Bookshelf |43| Belgrade, Borivoj

Borivoj, Belgrade

Dawn was just breaking. I did not know where I was. I made towards the rising sun, towards where I thought it should rise, the quicker to come into the light. I would have liked a sea horizon, or a desert one. When I am abroad in the morning I go to meet the sun, and in the evening, when I am abroad, I follow it, till I am down among the dead. I don’t know why I told this story. I could just as well have told another. Perhaps some other time I’ll be able to tell another. Living souls, you will see how alike they are.

The Expelled, Samuel Beckett

Bookshelf |42| Belgrade, Ivan

Ivan, Belgrade

You can’t be in London for long without going to the Zoo. There are some people who begin the Zoo at the beginning, called WAYIN, and walk as quickly as they can past every cage until they get to the one called WAYOUT, but the nicest people go straight to the animal they love the most, and stay there. So when Christopher Robin goes to the Zoo, he goes to where the Polar Bears are, and he whispers something to the third keeper from the left, and doors are unlocked, and we wander through dark passages and up steep stairs, until at last we come to the special cage, and the cage is opened, and out trots something brown and furry, and with a happy cry of “Oh, Bear!” Christopher Robin rushes into its arms. Now this bear’s name is Winnie, which shows what a good name for bears it is, but the funny thing is that we canR! 17;t remember whether Winnie is called after Pooh, or Pooh after Winnie. We did know once, but we have forgotten…


Bookshelf |41| Belgrade, Jelena

Jelena, Belgrade

Appena tornata a Kabul, aveva sofferto di non sapere dove i talebani avessero sepolto Mariam. Avrebbe desiderato far visita alla sua tomba, sedersi con lei per qualche minuto, lasciare qualche fiore. Ma ora capisce che non ha nessuna importanza. Mariam non e’ mai molto lontana. E’ qui! , tra questi muri che hanno ridipinto, negli alberi che hanno piantato, nelle coperte che tengono i bambini al caldo, nei guanciali, nei libri e nelle matite. E’ nei loro sorrisi. E’ nei versetti che Aziza recita e nelle preghiere che mormora prosternandosi verso Occidente. Ma Mariam e’ soprattutto nel cuore di Laila, dove brilla con l’incontenibile splendore di mille soli.

Mille splendid soli, Khaled Hosseini

Jelena, Belgrade


Bookshelf |40| Belgrade, Clare, Dejan, Emilija & Filip

Clare and Dejan, Belgrade

Thus spoke Margarita as she walked with the Master toward their eternal home, and it seemed to the Master that Margarita’s words flowed like the stream they had left behind, flowed and whispered, and the Master’s anxious, needle-pricked memory began to fade. Someone was releasing the Master into freedom, as he himself had released the hero he created. That hero, who was absolved on Sunday morning, had departed into the abyss, never to return, the son of an astrologer-king, the cruel fifth procurator of Judea, the knight Pontius Pilate.

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov



Emilija and Filip, Belgrade

Bookshelf |38| Harare, Mr Max

Mr Max, Harare


At daybreak we start towards Stanleyville: 600 miles of muddy dirt road, driving the whole time through a somber green tunnel in a stench of decomposing leaves, entangled branches and roots. We are passing deeper and deeper into the greatest jungle in Africa, into an uncanny world of rotting, proliferating, monstrously exaggerated botany. We are driving through a tropical wilderness that fills me with awe.

Outline for a Book, from Granta 21, Ryszard Kapuściński

Bookshelf |37| Belgrade, Pavle

Pavle, Belgrade

We didn’t see the seven mountains ahead of us. We didn’t see how they are always ahead, always calling us, always reminding us that there are more things to be done, dreams to be realised, joys to be re-discovered, promises made before birth to be fulfilled, beauty to be incarnated, and love embodied.

We didn’t notice how they hinted that nothing is ever finished, that struggles are never truly concluded, that sometimes we have to re-dream our lives, and that life can always be used to create more light.

We didn’t see the mountains ahead and so we didn’t sense the upheavals to come, upheavals that were in fact already in our midst, waiting to burst into light.

Songs of Enchantment, Ben Okri

Pavle, Belgrade


Bookshelf |36| Hague, Mateja

Mateja, Hague

There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty.

The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What’s up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don’t think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass! Who’s been pinching my beer?

And at the other end of the bar the world is full of the other type of person, who has a broken glass, or a glass that has been carelessly knocked over (usually by one of the people calling for a larger glass) or who had no glass at all, because he was at the back of the crowd and had failed to catch the barman’s eye.

The Truth, Terry Pratchett

Mateja, Hague

Bookshelf |35| London, Mark

Mark, London

But when a man has broken through the paper walls of everyday circumstance, those unsubstantial walls that hold so many of us securely prisoned from the cradle to the grave, he has made a discovery. If the world does not please you, you can change it. Determine to alter it at any price, and you can change it altogether. … There is only one sort of man who is absolutely to blame for his own misery, and that is the man who finds life dull and dreary.
The History of Mr Polly, HG Wells

Bookshelf |33|Barcelona, Milos

Milos, Barcelona

One evening at bedtime, Charlotte found a tiny ghost in her bed.

‘Mine!’, yelled the ghost, covering himself with the duvet.

‘Yours?’, replied Charlotte. That’s my bed. You can sleep here but you’ll have to share it with my teddy bear. He also wants to sleep in my bed.


Mine!, Mathilde Stein and Mies van Houts


Bookshelf |31|London, Anna and Anthony

Anna and Anthony, London

Young men on the rooftops changed their tune; spit and fiddled with the mouthpiece for a while and when they put it back in and blew out their cheeks it was just like the light of that day, pure and steady and kind of kind. You would have thought everything had been forgiven the way they played. The clarinets had trouble because the brass was cut so fine, not lowdown the way they loved to do it, but high and fine like a young girl singing by the side of a creek, passing the time, her ankles cold in the water. The young men with brass probably never saw such a girl but they made her up that day. On the rooftops. […] So from Lenox to St.Nicholas and across 135th Street, Lexington, from convent to Eight I could hear the men playing out their maple-sugar hearts, tapping it from fourhundred-year-old trees and letting it run down the trunk, wasting it because they didn’t have a bucket to hold it and didn’t want one either. They just wanted to let it run that day, slow if it wished, or fast, but a free run down trees bursting to give it up. That’s the way the young men on brass sounded that day.

Jazz, Toni Morrison


Bookshelf |30|Moscow, Jelena and Vesa

Jelena & Vesa, Moscow

Jelena & Vesa, Moscow

I keep explaining to all my younger colleagues whom I teach that when you light a cigarette lighter in a film it means the cigarette lighter’s lit, and it is isn’t lit, it means the lighter doesn’t work. It doesn’t mean anything else; and it’ll never mean anything else. If once in 10,000 times it turns out to mean something else, that means that somebody’s achieved a miracle. Wells achieved that miracle once. Only one director in the world has managed to achieve that miracle in the last few years and that’s Tarkovsky. Bergman achieved this miracle a few times. Fellini achieved it a few times. A few people achieved it. Ken Loach, too, in Kes.

I say a cigarette lighter – an idiotic example, of course – but what I mean is the literal nature of film. If I have a goal, then it is   to escape from this literalism. I’ll never achieve it; in the same way that I’ll never manage to describe what really dwells within my hero, although I keep on trying. If film really means to achieve anything – at least, this holds true for me – then it’s that somebody might find him or herself in it.

Kieślovski on Kieślovski, edited by Danusia Stok

Bookshelf |29| London, Paul

Paul, London

Paul, London

Stepping out of the door of one’s own house, one carries the weather in one’s head; the history of one’s view of the entire universe; memories that haze as days recede. One who wishes to attain understanding seeks to survive the poison, the fact of death. Seeks to leave signs and messages for those who will come later. Sees poetry as a kind of prayer, a kind of teacher. Knows that poetry is not made of words but out of bones and gardens, winter rain, kisses and whatnot. Knows that it is not only found on pages but met upon mountains, eaten in fruit, drunk in strong drink. Poetry is caused by love. It is a sculpture of one’s own life.

Celtic Bards, Celtic Druids, RJ Stewart and Robin Williamson


Bookshelf |28| London, Luba

Luba, London

Now Toffle looks at Miffle. They exchange a timid smile
That says as much as words, perhaps, but only for a while
Since there are certain things that even smiles cannot express.
‘I’ll write to you instead,’ says Toffle, ‘That’s the answer. Yes!’
But when he tries to write about how lonely he has been,
About his house and Hamulen, the smooth white shell he’s seen,
The Groke, the night he sailed the sea, he finds no words will come.
He is too shy to white his tale. Poor Toffle is struck dumb.
So WHO will comfort Toffle now? Will someone lend a hand
And help him write to Miffle so that she can understand?

Who Will Comfort Toffle?, Tove Jansson

Luba, London


Bookshelf |27| Barcelona, Rafael

Rafael, Barcelona

“In any case,” nonbelievers can say, “no one will know of the evil I am secretly doing.” But those who do not believe think that no one is watching them from on high, and therefore they also know that-precisely for this reason-there is not even a Someone who may forgive. If such people know they have done ill, their solitude shall be without end, and their death desperate. They will opt, more than believers, for the purification of public confession, they will ask the forgiveness of others. This they know, in the deepest part of their being, and therefore they know that they should forgive others first. Otherwise how could we explain that remorse is a feeling known to nonbelievers too?

Five Moral Pieces, Umberto Eco

Rafael, Barcelona


Bookshelf |26| Barcelona, Rafael

Rafael, Barcelona

The problem was the sky. Swimming in one direction, he was headed towards a great rounded green mountain, thick with the bright yellow-green of dense chestnut trees, making a slightly innocent, simple arc against the sky. Whereas the other way, he swam towards crags, towards a bowl of bald crags, with a few pines and lines of dark shale. And against the green hump the blue sky was one blue, and against the bald stone another, even when for a brief few hours it was uniformly blue overhead, that rich blue, that cobalt, deep-washed blue of the South, which fought all the blues of the pool, all the green-tinged, duck-egg-tinged blues of the shifting water.

Elementals, A.S. Byatt


Bookshelf |25| London, Doreen

Doreen, London

Doreen, London

In the evening when they sat in the parlour Davidson talked to them of his early days at collage. He had had no means and had worked his way through by doing odd jobs during the vacations. There was silence downstairs. Miss Thompson was sitting in her little room alone. But suddenly the gramophone began to play. She had set it on in defiance, to cheat her loneliness, but there was no one to sing, and it had a melancholy note. It was like a cry for help. Davidson took no notice. He was in the middle of a long anecdote and without change of expression went on. The gramophone continued. Miss Thompson put on one reel after another. It looked as though the silence of the night were getting on her nerves. It was breathless and sultry. When the Macphails went to bed they could not sleep. They lay side by side with their eyes wide open, listening to the cruel singing of the mosquitoes outside their curtain.

Rain from Short Stories, W. Somerset Maugham


Bookshelf |24| Ashmore Green, Bee

Bee, Ashmore Green

Bee, Ashmore Green

“There must be writers whose parents owned no books, and who were taken under the wing of a neighbour or teacher or librarian, but I have never met one.  My daughter is seven, and some of the other second-grade parents complain that their children don’t read for pleasure.  When I visit their homes, the children’s rooms are crammed with expensive books, but the parents’ rooms are empty.  Those children do not see their parents reading, as I did every day of my childhood.  By contrast, when I walk into an apartment with books on the shelves, books on the bedside tables, books on the floor, and books on the toilet tank, then I know what I would see if I opened the door that says PRIVATE — GROWNUPS KEEP OUT:  a child sprawled on the bed, reading.”

Ex Libris, Anne Fadiman

Bookshelf |23| Barcelona, Rafael

Rafael, Barcelona

He is alone because he is too far from everything, from himself and from the other, even though the other may be unreachable depth of his own well. It may have been better if man had never leaned over that well but once he did -and that gesture made his destiny- he seemed to see his own face reflected on the bottom of the devastating fire of hope. Then he seemed to hear a voice, or perhaps it was a command reproduced trough the oracles all over the earth. He thought he saw and heard himself. And the words that came to his ears were the ones that he desperately needed to hear: know yourself.

The End of the World as a Work of Art: a Western Story, Rafael Argullol

Bookshelf |22| London, Ruza

Ruza, London

Than around Christmas of 1912, I had a dream. In the dream I found myself in a magnificent Italian loggia with pillars, a marble floor, and a marble balustrade. I was sitting on a gold Renaissance chair; in front of me was a table of rare beauty. It was made of green stone, like emerald. There I sat, looking out into the distance, for the loggia was set high up on the tower of a castle. My children were sitting at the table too.

Suddenly a white bird descended, a small sea-gull or a dove. Gracefully, it came to rest on the table, and I signed to the children to be still so that they would not frighten away the pretty white bird. Immediately, the dove was transformed into a little girl, about eight years of age, with golden blonde hair. She ran off with the children and played with them among the colonnades of the castle.

I remained lost in thought, musing about what I had just experienced. The little girl returned and tenderly placed her arms around my neck. Then she suddenly vanished, the dove was back and slowly in human voice. “Only in the first hours of the night can I transform myself into a human being, while the male dove is busy with the twelve dead.” then she flew off into the blue air, and I awoke.

Memories, Dreams, Reflections, C.G. Jung

Ruza, London


Bookshelf |21| Brussels, Gordana

Gordana, Brussels

Gordana, Brussels

“We are in a completely different world, the situation has changed, therefore, we should commemorate our wonderful youth. Nothing of what was, have an active meaning for us anymore. What is left are nostalgia and folklore.”

The Communist Hypothesis, Alain Badiou

Bookshelf |20| Hague, Tanja and Jacob

Jacob, Hague

Jacob & Tanja, Hague

Tanja, Hague

The cellist looked at the clock and saw that it was long past lunchtime. The dog, who had been thinking exactly this for some ten minutes, had sat down beside his owner and, with his head resting on his master’s knee, was waiting patiently for him to return to the world. Nearby was a small restaurant providing sandwiches and other such culinary trifles. On the morning that he visited the park, the cellist was a regular customer there, and he always order the same thing.Two tuna mayo sandwiches and a glass of wine for him, and a beef sandwich, rare, for the dog. If the weather is fine, as today, they sat on the grass, in the shade of a tree, and while they were eating, they talked. The dog always kept the best until last, he began by dispatching the slices of bread and only then did he give himself over to the pleasure of the meat, chewing unhurriedly, conscientiously, savouring the juices. The cellist ate distractedly, without giving any thought to what he was eating, he was pondering that suite in d major by bach, in particular the prelude and one fiendishly difficult passage that would sometimes make him pause, hesitate, doubt, which is the worst thing that can happen in the life of a musician. After they eaten, they lay down side by side, the cellist dozed a little, and, a minute later, the dog was asleep. When they woke and went home, death went with them. While the dog ran into the garden to empty its bowels, the cellist placed the music for the bach suite on the stand, found the tricky bit, a truly diabolical pianissimo, and again experienced that implacable moment of hesitation. Death felt sorry for him, Poor thing, and the worst of it is that he’s not going to have time to get it right, not, of course, that anyone ever does, even those who come close are always wide of mark. Then, for the first time, death noticed that nowhere in the apartment was there a single photograph of a woman, apart from that of an elderly lady who was clearly the cellist’s mother, accompanied by a man who must have been his father.

Death at Intervals, José Saramago

Bookshelf |19| Belgrade, Lola

Lola, Belgrade

And it is here that I can speak of a habit which led me throughout my life along paths less secret than those of Eleusis, but after all parallel to them, namely, the study of the stars. I have always been friend to astronomers and client to astrologers. The science of the latter is questionable, but if false in its details it is perhaps true in the total implication; for it man is part and parcel of the universe, and is ruled by the same laws as govern the sky, it is not unreasonable to search the heavens for the patterns of our lives, and for those impersonal attractions which induce our successes and our errors. On autumn evenings I seldom failed to greet Aquarius to the south, that heavenly Cup Bearer and Giver of Gifts under whose sign I was born. Nor did I forget to note in each of their passages Jupiter and Venus, who govern my life, nor to measure the dangerous influence of Saturn.

The Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar


Bookshelf |18| London, James

James, London

And then there is the Timbuctoo of the mind – a mythical city in a Never-Never Land, an antipodean mirage, a symbol for the back of beyond or a flat joke. ‘He has gone to Timbuctoo,’ they say, meaning ‘He is out of his mind’ (or drugged); ‘He has left his wife’ (or his creditors); ‘He has gone away indefinitely and will probably not return’; or ‘He can’t think of anywhere better to go than Timbuctoo. I thought only American tourists went there.’

‘Was it lovely?’ asked a friend on my return. No. It is far from lovely; unless you find mud walls crumbling to dust lovely – walls of a spectral grey, as if all the colour has been sucked out by the sun.

To the passing visitor there are only two questions. ‘Where is my next drink coming from?’ and ‘Why am I here at all?’ And yet, as I write, I remember the desert wind whipping up the green waters; the thin hard blue of the sky; enormous women rolling round the town in pale indigo cotton boubous; the shutters on the houses the same hard blue against mud-grey walls; orange bowerbirds that weave their basket nests in feathery acacia; gleaming black gardens sluicing water from leather skins, lovingly, on rows of blue-green onions; lean aristocratic Touaregs, of supernatural appearance, with coloured leather shields and shining spears, their faces encased in indigo veils, which like carbon paper,dye their skin a thunder-cloud blue; wild Moors with corkscrew curls; firm-breasted Bela girls of the old slave caste, stripped to the waist, pounding at their mortars and keeping time with monotonous tunes; and monumental Songhai ladies with great basket shaped earrings like those worn by the Queen of Ur over four thousand years ago.

Anatomy of Restlessness, Bruce Chatwin


Bookshelf |17| Tuscon part 1, Dragana & Janko

Dragana & Janko, Tuscon

Dragana & Janko, Tuscon

While he stood there ten stories above the Brooklyn alley (where the two attendants, in the mild March air, again sat joshing at the entrance to their parking garage), the towers’ distant absence seemed a light throwing a shadow behind him, a weak shadow, but inextricable from his presence–the price. It could be said, of his being alive. He was alive, and a shadowy God with him, behind him. Human consciousness had curious properties. However big things were, it could encompass them, as if it were even bigger. And it kept insisting on making a narrative of Dan’s life, however nonsensically truncated the lives of others–crushed in an instant, or snapped off on the birthing-bed–had been.

Varieties of Religious Experience from My Father’s Tears, John Updike


Bookshelf |16| Belgrade, Nada

Nada, Belgrade

When I read a novel, I see it, and later, I remember the images I invented for the book. Some of those images are borrowed from intimate places in my own life. Others, I suspect, are taken from movies or pictures in books or paintings I’ve seen. I need to put the characters somewhere. Many people I’ve spoken to confirm that they also see books. Once, however, I met a man on a panel with me, a poet and translator, who swore he did not invent images when he read. We were discussing Proust. ‘Well,” I asked him, “if you don’t see Marcel’s room and his mother and all of the people in the story, what happens?” He answered, “I see the words.” I was flabbergasted. It struck me as a sad way to read, but who knows? Perhaps his mind does not convert the symbols into pictures, and why would he feel the lack of something he has never known? When I write fiction, I see my characters moving around, speaking, and acting, and I always place them in actual room, houses, buildings, and streets I know and remember well. I am usually one of those characters, not I as I but I as someone else, an other self, male or female, projected into the mental world I inhabit as I write.

The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves, Siri Hustvedt

Nada, Belgrade

Nada, Belgrade


Bookshelf |15| Belgrade, Ruza

Ruza, Belgrade

Ruza, before

Ruza, moving on

“The novel… is a very poorly fortified castle. If I take an hour to read twenty pages, a novel of four hundred pages will take me twenty hours, thus about a week. Rarely do we have a whole week free. It is more likely that, between sessions of reading, intervals of several days will occur, during which forgetting will immediately set up its worksite. But it is not only in the intervals that forgetting does its work; it participates in the reading continuously, with never a moment’s lapse; turning the page, I already forget what I just read; I retain a kind of summary indispensable for understanding what is to follow, but all the details, the small observations, the admirable phrasings are already gone. Erased. Someday, years later, I will start to talk about this novel to a friend, and we will find that our memories have retained only a few shreds of the text and have reconstructed very different books for each of us.”

The Curtain (2007), Milan Kundera


Bookshelf |14| Belgrade, Bojana

Bojana, Belgrade

The cicadas are throbbing in the great planes, and the summer Mediterranean lies before me in all it’s magnetic blueness. Somewhere out there, beyond the mauve throbbing line of the horizon lies Africa, lies Alexandria, maintaining its tenuous grasp on one’s affections through memories which are already refunding themselves slowly into forgetfulness; memory of friends, of incidents long past. The slow unreality of time begins to grip them, blurring the outlines – so that sometimes I wonder whether these pages record the actions of real human beings; or whether this is not simply the story of a few inanimate objects which precipitated drama around them – I mean a black patch, a watch-key and a couple of dispossessed wedding-ring …

Soon it will be evening and the clear night sky will be dusted thickly with summer stars. I shall be here, as always, smoking by the water. I have decided to leave Clea’s last letter unanswered. I no longer wish to coerce anyone, to make promises, to think of life in terms of compacts, resolutions, covenants. It will be up to Clea to interpret my silence according to her own needs and desires, to come to me if she has need or not, as the case may be. Does not everything* depend on our interpretation of the silence around us? So that …

The Alexandria Quartet, Justine, Lawrence Durrell


Bookshelf |13| London, Cheryl

Cheryl, London

Cheryl, London

Cheryl, London

Cheryl, London

What I mean is, I didn’t start running because somebody asked me to become a runner. Just like I didn’t become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I stated to run – simply because I wanted to. I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I don’t change.

I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don’t. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn’t be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature. My own individual, stubborn, uncooperative, often self-centered nature that still doubts itself–that, when troubles occur, tries to find something funny, or something nearly funny, about the situation. I’ve carried this character around like an old suitcase, down along, dusty path. I’m not carrying it because I like it. The contents are too heavy, and it looks crummy, fraying in spots. I’ve carried it with me abuse these was nothing else I was supposed to carry. Still, I guess I have grown attached to it. As you might expect.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami

Bookshelf |59| Sao Paolo, Sonia

Yet can we conceive of a reality that does not encompass the personal gratifications that associate ‘happiness’ with creativity, eroticism, filial love, bed and board, home and hearth, those little things that are as much our true ‘nation’, as José Emilio Pacheco describes in his great poem ‘Alta Traición’ (High Treason), as are the social or collective gratifications of good government, administrative integrity, public security, the right to dissent and the faculty to elect?

Yet we must not fool ourselves either. In the personal sphere alone, can we conceive of a happiness that is unsullied, sooner or later, by the death of beloved, a crack in a romantic relationship, a fidelity betrayed, a friendship broken?

Precisely for this reason, happiness is an ambiguous critical and at times disguised word whose true nature can only be revealed by the light of love.

This I Believe, Carlos Fuentes