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.)


  1. clodhopper says

    So glad that you have settled for a word, word and more **** words.

  2. Borges said “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” For many of us, our personal library may be a paradise when life seems to be turning into hell.

  3. David Marjanović says

    “Luan”? Where does that name come from?

  4. I always thought that hanging on to books like that was dysfunctional and that there was no cure. I’m sitting here after my move surrounded by boxes upon boxes of books trying to remember why I did this. You mean I don’t have to hide it? I can embrace it?

  5. “Luan”? Where does that name come from?
    I was curious about that too. Where are all the Macedonian LH readers?

  6. Off topic a bit, here is a Hungarian-based blog that I thought might interest people. It has English & Spanish translations & might be by a linguist — I don’t know who, though.

  7. clodhopper says

    Nijma : enjoy your way of life, do not worry about it, you are you, as long as the babies are still fed.
    Just because 7 billion other people are not into hoarding books, it matters not.

  8. “Luan”? Where does that name come from?
    Albanian for ‘lion‘.

  9. MMcM knows all.

  10. do not worry about it, …as long as the babies are still fed
    Drat, I knew I forgot something.
    It was my undergraduate mentor, whose three floors hold more books than I ever want to own, who put the idea in my head that I could store books when I moved to the Middle East. I only had 8 days advance notice, so it was a rush to give notice, close the apartment, etc., and I ended up throwing away two thirds of them. When I returned, the first thing I did was to reread all the Nancy Drew mysteries from the 30’s and 40’s. It seems like an odd thing to do now.

  11. nullandvoid says

    I just want to point out, after a quick glance at the Wikipedia article on neoteny kindly linked for us by Noetica, that that article has a link to the article on cuteness. A quick glance at the latter suggests that there is objective evidence that baby dinosaurs were cute.

  12. David Marjanović says

    OK. Next time I’ll ask directly :^)

    A quick glance at the latter suggests that there is objective evidence that baby dinosaurs were cute.

    You didn’t know? That’s been known for decades. I even once found a Reader’s Digest from the 80s which mentioned it.

  13. ToussianMuso says

    It’s interesting how much one can tell about a person by glancing at his or her bookshelf.
    Here’s a favorite quote from Erasmus: “When I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”

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