By Nora Moncada.
The difficulty in discussing my library lies in its disorder. Walter Benjamin’s essay explores the disorder of book collection due to the “chaos of memories,” the fact that each book of a single collection has a different meaning and history for the collector.
Benjamin considers a kind of intangible chaos, while the chaos of my own library transcends the realm of the intangible into that of the tangible.
I have books on shelves, but I also have books scattered on my furniture. I have books on my bed, as well as books around my bed, which form a kind of literary fortress. My books are also littered around the house—there are, for example, some in the kitchen to accompany a meal and some in the living room to precede a nap on the sofa. These books themselves have different ages (I think of a book’s age as a measure of how long they’ve been in my library); some are nearly two decades old, others are barely two weeks old.
The books on my desk and the seat before it are textbooks or anthologies or Latin books, all of which are school-related. The books on the shelf near my desk are murder mysteries (I went through an Agatha Christie-Dorothy Sayers phase), as well as a few anomalous elements (a little philosophy, some humor). But most of my books are young adult or children’s books, and the ones closest to or on my bed are all fairy tales or mythological stories. They are often the oldest too.
Most of them were gifts from relatives who remembered their childhood love for Grimm or Anderson (among others), and passed along their most beautifully illustrated copies to me the moment I was literate enough to swallow the words. These are the books I reach for on a frantic school night (procrastination!) or during a bout of insomnia or after a twinge of nostalgia—they wrap around me a world of color, whimsy, and promise.