Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What would you miss most from the library?

Adam saw that the revolving doors were now fanning into the hall a steady stream of booted and helmeted firemen, who trotted sheepishly along the human corridor and into the Reading Room. Hosepipes snaked across the floor behind them.

'They say there's a fire,' said the doorman, with relish.

'Not in the Library?' exclaimed Adam, aghast.

'It's like the war all over again,' said the man, rubbing his hands together. 'Of course, most of the books are irreplaceable, you know.'

It wasn't, however, (Adam had ashamedly to admit to himself later) the fate of the Museum's priceless collection which preoccupied him at that moment, but the fate of his own notes and files. Only a short while ago he had been filled with disgust for that tatty collection of paper, but now that it was in danger of extinction he realised how closely his sense of personal identity, uncertain as this was, was involved in those fragile, vulnerable sheets, cards and notebooks, which even now might be crinkling and turning brown at the edges under the hot breath of destructive flame. Almost everything he had thought and read for the past two years was recorded there. It wasn't much, but it was all he had.
David Lodge, The British Museum Is Falling Down (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1965), pp. 96-97

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