Saturday, 20 September 2014

‘The Library of Unrequited Love’

‘The Library of Unrequited Love’ by Sophie Divry trans. Siân Reynolds (2013), first published as ‘La Cote 400’ (2010), is 100 pages of pure joy for any librarian, aspiring librarian, ex-librarian, or librarian manqué.  On second thoughts, you don’t even have to be any of those – I bet there’s a good chance you’d enjoy it anyway.   It is in the unusual form of a one-way conversation between a librarian and a man who got locked in the building overnight.   On my scale of 1 to 10 it ranks 11!

Sophie Divry lives in Lyon.  She likes aubergines, olive oil and her mother’s home-made jam.  She hates cars, is a feminist and has a phobia about open doors.  She likes swimming in the sea, lakes or rivers, but does not like buying a book without knowing what’s inside it.  Siân Reynolds is a past winner of the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize, and has translated many French writers.  She lives in Edinburgh.

From the dedication to the last page the book is full of quotable pieces.
The dedication – ‘To all those men and women who will always find a place for themselves in a library more easily than in society, I dedicate this entertainment.’

You’re never alone if you live surrounded by books.

… you can’t trust the readers an inch…  …readers only come into a library to cause mayhem.
Because is there anything more fascinating about a person than a beautiful neck seen from behind?  The back of the neck is a promise, summing up the whole person through their most intimate feature.  Yes, intimate.  It’s the part of your body you can never see yourself. 

…what I do is recharge my batteries here in my basement.  Even though it isn’t a very interesting job.  If indeed there are any interesting jobs in this profession.  Still, some people have better perches than me. 

All the hundreds of books pouring off the presses, ninety-nine per cent of them, they’d do better to use the paper for wrapping takeaways. 

The publishers ought to put a sell-by date on them, because they’re just consumer goods.

It’s so sad.  Nothing is sadder than an empty library.  I mean a library that’s open, but with no readers.

Book and reader, if they meet up at the right moment in a person’s life, it can make sparks fly, set you alight, change your life.

The inexhaustible milk of human culture, right here, within our reach.  Help yourself, it’s free. Borrow, because as much as accumulation of material things impoverishes the soul, cultural abundance enriches it.

Even me, do you think I’ve got things under control here?  Not at all, I’m their slave.  If they’re in the wrong order, they start shouting at me, and I have to hurry along like a servant to put them right, get them into the proper shelf.

Go on, you’ve got plenty of intelligence, so let’s say you read two books a week, for fifty years in your lifetime, you’ll have read how many?  Five thousand.   That’s nothing. Nothing at all, compared to what we have here; two hundred and fifty thousand, seven hundred different books.  And in the National Library, they’ve got fourteen million.  We’re just cockroaches.

And I like to see people losing their library cherry.  Oh well, of course, if the first time is a fiasco, it’ll be hard to carry on.

Writing only happens when something’s wrong.  If everyone on earth was happy, they wouldn’t write anything except recipes and postcards, and there wouldn’t be any books, or literature, or libraries.


  1. What great quotes. I will definitely have to look for this one. Thanks for sharing.

    By the way, I made a typo which I caught before I sent this. Did you know "Greta" is an anagram of "Great"? Am I channeling Garbo? Maybe my little beagle brain is trying to tell me something ....

  2. Very clever quotes. Love them. Adding on to my reading list :)) Thanks!

  3. The book sounds fascinating. I will have to see if I c an get a hold of it. I don't go down by the library very often any more, except on Sundays and then it is closed. They have quite a good library here in the park, which is to be expected since we are mostly 'old' people and have a decent education, but it's not very up to date. Sophie Divry is exceptionally pretty i think.

  4. Well, i'd like to think that if everyone were happy, we'd also write happy stories and love notes. It does sound like an amazing read!

  5. I'm not sure why (apart, perhaps, from the French connection) but it reminds me of one of my favourite books: The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by T E Carhart.

  6. Only 100 pages? And some extremely tedious books are tomes of 700 and more pages...

  7. I'm still trying to puzzle out if Sophie Divry and Sian Reynolds are two different people, or if it's one person using a nom de plume. When I try to Google it, all that comes up is this book. Which I intend to read, of course! And Sophie/Sian is very pretty, isn't she?

  8. I am with Meike, I like the idea of it being 100 pages. I LOVE for folks to get to the point of what they are trying to say!

  9. That sounds like a great book that both Daniel and I would enjoy. I'll have to see if our library has it. We practically live at our local library and with the internet it has made it easy to have them put books, videos or audio books on hold for us. I hope you are doing well!! xoxo Silke


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