There came a point, after my parents had separated and after I had graduated from university and formally left home and after several years after that, in fact, when my father wanted to sell our last ‘family’ home and I had the opportunity to look through all of the stuff remaining in ‘my’ bedroom.
I remember there being lots of books. I was one of those children. Books on bookshelves, books stashed in drawers and piled high upon each other in cupboards and wardrobes. I gathered books like other boys collected bruises. Kids’ books, grown-up classics, sci-fi….
On coming back to them in the brief interlude before the house-clearance people would dispose of everything, I saved precisely none of these books – one of the best decisions I have ever made.
For now those books constitute an invisible library of lost books – and this library, almost Borgesian in its non-existence – is a thing of great beauty.
Having been in our new home for nigh on six months now, one of the best things Sophie and I have achieved is to commission and have installed several bespoke bookshelves (made by a local maker called Mark Cannon). These are fine things: hand-crafted from beech wood, they will never buckle or bow, no matter how many volumes of art history or hard-backed Swedish sagas are set upon them (defiantly in no particular order).
And this wonderful library of Sophie’s and my extant books is also beautiful. But the library of my lost books is enhanced by not having to exist and by the number of books in it being at the whim of my memory (if I forget them, perhaps they have been borrowed?) and by the nature of the books being as I wish to remember them and absolutely unverifiable.