Luan Starova (Луан Старова) is a Macedonian author and diplomat whose best-known work is “the autobiographical cycle Balkan Saga, of which ten volumes have been published so far. My Father’s Books is the first work in the cycle. His books have appeared in more than fifteen languages, but the segment featured in Words without Borders is the first to be featured in English.” The excerpt tells a sad story (which I hope is at least to some extent fictionalized) and contains a passage that reminds me of the role of books in my own peripatetic life:
Of all that materially remained in the world at the end of my father’s life, it is possibly his books that most clearly reveal the lost past. It is also possible that one of the secrets of my parents’ durable and harmonious marriage was my mother’s good-natured encouragement and support of my father’s love for his books, and her transformation into a kind of holy patron of his library. It is, in fact, from the pages of my father’s movable library that one can most clearly read and understand the history of my family that my parents constructed. Wherever the path of migrations and the instinct for family survival drove us, my father’s books accompanied us.
A new book was like a newborn in the family, with its own place in our family’s life, or like a new footpath that allowed one to walk yet farther along the long road of life.
During the family’s frequent migrations, during the frequent changes of Balkan borders, which often fatally and tragically split the destinies of individuals, families, and nations, we left everything behind except the books.
The books also befriended us in those moments when there was only enough time for life itself to be saved, as if hidden on one of their pages was the riddle to the family’s salvation.
(Via wood s lot.)