Monday, 23 March 2020

Reveries of libraries, the thirty-second: Closed Doors and Spatial Distance

Until I had come into this space alone, knowing I would leave alone eight hours later, I had not fully lived. While the world outside has also closed its doors on empty streets and falling leaves of an early Australian autumn, experience tells me this is no ordinary experience. As I turn again to the daily practices of running a library, I sense a new affinity with the authors of some of these thousands of  books, who lived through lockdown, not knowing when lockdown in their village or town would be lifted.

Not until I arrived at this page alone, reading its impressive impress of letters, had I thought about this writer outside his books. While the world outside was closed marketplaces and doors nailed up with crude notices banning entry, his experience was the more ordinary round of food, writing, and sleep. And how to find them. And so again. As I turn the page to the next day of his writing practice, I sense a new affinity with the others he was thinking of, at home in their lockdown chambers, or trapped across the border unable to return because of the crown’s dictates on corona.

Until I had been into his space alone, knowing I would borrow out his book eight hours later, I had not started to imagine how quiet Italy can get. While his world outside is also closed doors and empty alleys and flowering enclosures of an early Italian spring, his evidence tells me this is no ordinary experience. As I turn over pages of his daily practice of writing to the future, I sense an affinity with the author of this uncatalogued book, whose words might outlive their obscure lockdown, he not knowing when lockdown in his esteemed and creative town will be lifted.

I had come into this space alone, knowing I might meet someone in a book I was cataloguing, a life fully lived that I had not imagined until now. While the world outside presses a thousand signs and a million icons, this unclosed book is unfailing leaves of an earlier time, where experience tells me his is no ordinary experience. As I turn his pages his practices run to meet me, and I sense a hard-earned knowledge new and near to divinity in this author, whom I name now by name, not wanting the upshot and slowdown of his words to end, or let go unmentioned.

Until I had left this space alone eight hours later, knowing I must navigate public transport anxieties, I had not lived. While the world outside is yet more and more closed doors on empty streets and fallen leaves of an Australian autumn, this experience I tell myself is no ordinary experience. As I turn again to the unusual daily practice of spatial distancing on a familiar tram, I monitor my newfound affinity with the author of this Venetian book, who lived through lockdown, not knowing when lockdown in Venice would be lifted.


Lockdown reading from the Library. ‘The New Testament’, a translation by David Bentley Hart (Yale University Press, 2017). ‘A hermit’s cookbook : monks, food and fasting in the Middle Ages’, by Andrew Jotischky (Continuum, 2011). ‘A history of the Bible : the book and its faiths’, by John Barton (Allen Lane, 2019).


No comments:

Post a comment