The Collector (IV)

Candida Höfer, Libraries

Conway Library London (from Candida Höfer, Libraries).

The final time they made love, seven months before she killed herself and he married someone else, the Gypsy girl asked my grandfather how he arranged his books.


Where do you keep your books? she asked.
In my room.
Where in your room?
On shelves.
How are your books arranged?
Why do you care?
Because I want to know.


My grandfather and the Gypsy girl made love for seven years, at least twice every week. They had confessed every secret; explained, to the best of their abilities, the workings of their bodies, each to the other; been forceful and passive, greedy and giving, wordy and silent.

How do you arrange your books? she asked as they lay naked on a bed of pebbles and hard soil.
I told you, they’re in my bedroom on shelves.
I wonder if you can imagine your life without me.
Sure I can imagine it, but I don’t like to.
It’s not pleasant, is it?
Why are you doing this?
It was just something I was wondering.


They made love for the last time, unaware that the next seven months would pass without any words between them. […] For seven months they would ignore each other anywhere and always, sure they could be complete strangers, but were proven wrong when he returned home one afternoon from work only to pass her on her way out of his house. […]

Your books are arranged by the color of their spines, she said. How stupid.

From Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated.

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