Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Quiet Library and the Universality of Books



We made a pit-stop in the library in Fuengirola (Costa del Sol, Spain) two days ago to look for books on the derivation of specialist linguistics such as economics, medical, legal etc. We were not successful in this search just as we have been unsuccessful in Venice, Pescara and Rovigo in Italy, but that does not stop us trying.

As Stefano made enquiries at the desk as to the whereabouts of such books I noticed the display under the banner of ‘Londres 2012’ and wandered over for a perusal. In celebration of the Olympics and Paralympics in London this year the library had selected a number of books by British (and Irish) writers. The selection was an eclectic mix of classic and modern and I was taken with some of the translated titles. Dickens’ Bleak House became ‘casa desolada’ which sounds far more romantic than the English title and A Tale of Two Cities is translated as ‘Historia de dos ciudades’ which is a bit more of a mouthful. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen remained just that whilst Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray translated as ‘El Retrato de Dorian Gray’ which gives me, with my limited Spanish, a feel for the story much more than the English title does. Defoe, Hornby and others were there for the choosing and I was rather pleased to see a library make an effort to tie reading in with other pursuits (and for the record it worked as nearly everyone who walked in to the library approached the display even if not all selected a book from it).

The library is new, clean and with lots of desks in the reference area upstairs. The rule of silence is strictly enforced within the library confines. An old-fashioned stare, the likes of which I have not seen since my teenage years in Maidenhead library, was thrown in the direction of a middle-aged woman whose phone rang. When she answered it I was convinced the librarian was going to wrestle her to the ground and snatch the phone. The woman had the good sense to whisper her whereabouts into the phone before leaving the building post-haste before continuing her call. I do wish municipal libraries in the UK were more like this, instead they now seem to be a cross between a crèche, coffee house and general meeting point with barely a desk to be had and silence more than lacking.

In the reference area a display of translated English language authors marched across the top of one of the shelving units. It was interesting to see the mix of styles – Patricia Cornwell, Salman Rushdie (who had not made it into the celebrating London section), John Grisham, Barbara Wood and Wilbur Smith to name a few – and pleasing that language is no longer a barrier. I am going through a phase of reading Spanish language writers, translated as my Spanish is not yet good enough to do them justice in their own tongue. It shows that literature, good, bad or indifferent, is universal regardless of the language it is originally written in. Books traverse boundaries, cultural and linguistic, bringing enjoyment, learning and escapism to all that open the covers and dive in.

Reading should be encouraged in every way possible to all generations (it is never too late to come to the joy of books). Books are a truly universal path to understanding and shared experiences.





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