My bookshelf that isn’t mine
My boyfriend rules the bookshelf with an iron fist. Few of my books have been given a place in it. Even fewer are by female authors.
When it comes to the bookshelf, I have no say. That’s why it’s not chaotic. It was one of the things my boyfriend added to our shared home. He keeps a strict eye on which books make their way into it based on literary and visual value. And still, our bookshelf is home to hundreds of books. I had to lug them up three flights of stairs in shopping bags and sacrifice an entire wall in the living room. As a result, the TV is now in the bedroom. That’s a mistake I’ll correct soon.
From A like Achebe to Z like Zweig
After the handles of the paper bags filled with heavy books cut into my hands, I was forced to help sort these works. How? Alphabetically by the last names of the authors. In doing so, I realised the book by Gertrude Stein, which I gave my boyfriend on his 30th birthday, is only his third book written by a woman. It’s still sitting on the living room dresser and hasn’t been read.
At least he’s aware of this shameful imbalance. And there are far greater chauvinists among the authors on the shelf. At least from today's perspective. The letter «B», for instance, offers amazing literature, but also an insight into a, let’s say, «different» image of women. Samuel Beckett («When women don’t know what to do, they take their clothes off, and that’s probably the best thing women can do.») followed by Gottfried Benn («A woman is something for a night. And if it was good, for the next night too.») and Charles Bukowski («Feminism exists only because ugly women want to integrate in the society.»). Should I cancel them? No. In this case, I too am in favour of contextualising things.
The bottom right corner of the bookshelf is dedicated to history books. They’re right next to countless bulky books on architecture and art. These three genres aren’t sorted alphabetically, but thematically. This makes sense to me, as its more important what they’re about than who wrote them.
My dark childen’s book
I added one classic of world literature to our strictly monitored bookshelf: Struwwelpeter. The German children’s book by Heinrich Hoffmann, which includes ten stories that demonstrate (and exaggerate) what happens when children misbehave. And this book has also seen its share of controversy, having been accused of exemplifying dark pedagogics and repressive punitive behaviour. Which, to be fair, it does. That's why I don’t consider the book an educational guide, but a relic of my childhood. I used to read the stories of Hans Guck-in-die-Luft («The Story of Johnny Look-In-The-Air») and Pauline, the girl who played with fire, at my grandparents’. And yet, I continued to play with candles and hold anything I could find into the flame, including my fingers.
After almost a year of living with the bookshelf (and my boyfriend), a handful of other books of mine have made their way onto the shelves. «Things Fall Apart» by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe is one of them. And I now even agree with putting them in alphabetical order.
Like father, like son
The wooden shelf takes up an entire living room wall and almost every shelve is filled with books. And they keep getting more and more. As the son of an antique book seller who own about 50,000 books, my boyfriend is literally right at the source of his addiction passion. After what feels like every weekend he spends with his father in Graubünden, new books appear on the shelf. Without order, I would be standing in front of it for minutes when looking for Claude Lévi-Strauss’ travelogue «Tristes Tropiques».
It’s only thanks to the large bookshelf and the knowledge gathered there that I realised how much ethnology fascinates me. Or that I can also appreciate poetry from time to time. Or that Mikhail Bakunin was a great anarchist. Or... the point is, my bookshelf, which isn’t really mine, has a book for every need. Unless the need is to read a book by a female author. But I’m working on that.
Chaotic, chronological, alphabetical; by colour, by size, by mood; geographical, autobiographical, thematic. We all have our own ideas about how books should be arranged on a shelf. We, the Digitec Galaxus editors, are allowing you a sneak peek into our very own bookshelves. Next up: Martin Jungfer.
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