The Catalogue of Lost Books
The Incredible Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (a problematic Czech-born communist) - this is a philosophical novel about lovers in the Prague Spring discovered by me in London in 1984/5 via a Guardian review read at the laundrette. I wasn't buying a lot of books then because I didn't have the money, but I bought this one from Foyles, I think, or somewhere near by. We lived a five minute walk away. I read it, loved it, took it to Athens when we went there to live for a while, and then handed it to my late aunt's lover to take home. I think I was trying to impress her, I think I was trying to give her a special gift, I think I was trying to make her like me. She was a Greek communist with scathing eyes and blunt hands whom I've never seen since.
he Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - a captivating story about the start of the comic book industry through the lives of a Czech artist and Brooklyn-born writer. My children were small when I read it, and I seem to remember sitting on the floor of the bathroom with the book in my lap while they frolicked in the bath. I also think it was one of the books chosen by my book club, so there would have been a deadline for finishing it. Years later, I lent it to the niece of a friend, a talented young woman who was selling the most extraordinary series of hand-made comic books about her relationship. She owned a small comic-book shop with her boyfriend. Once they both helped us pick olives, and he wrote a poem about the olive trees which echoed one of Lorca's. I've seen her once of twice since, playing her guitar with her poet, but haven't had the heart to mention the book.
There are others in my catalogue, not always interesting or good. No, mostly interesting and good, that's the trouble. Why lend a dull book? And I realise, even as I imagine the Lost Book coming back home one day, that such a thing is highly unlikely. It's made its life on another bookshelf now, and there's a certain logic to it being there in fact. Surely it fits where it is. And I guess I like that the new owner is linked to me via the book - after all I touched those pages first ... Or perhaps it was never read but simply shelved, and sent off one day in a cardboard box to the local school fair. Well then it really has gone. But you know, when you least expect it, in the oddest way sometimes, a book can come back , and it's like it never left.