This Feb. 15 story by Jaime Ciavarra depresses me tremendously. It’s always sad when a bookstore goes out of business, but when the books are actually destroyed it’s horrible:

Thousands of books—torn, tattered, spines broken—were lumped into literary mountains on a Gaithersburg parking lot, men shoveling them into two green, 10-ton Dumpsters…

A Russian bookstore that has long been a haven for immigrants, researchers, and—some say—even spies and CIA agents during the Cold War, unexpectedly closed its doors last week when the owner was evicted.

Thousands of books, all in Russian and some still in plastic packaging, were taken to the trash transfer station at Shady Grove to be recycled.

Victor Kamkin Inc., one of the largest Russian book distributors in the United States, was nearly six months overdue in rent at the brick building at 220 Girard Street in Olde Towne, the property manager said.

Last week, when the store owner had not moved the books from the site, First Potomac Realty Trust began the eviction process, removing nearly 400,000 of the estimated 600,000 Russian books as customers watched, and tried to salvage some titles, in the bitter cold…

The bookstore, which was previously housed in Rockville, came close to meeting a similar fate in 2002 when Kalageorgi fell nearly $200,000 behind in rent.

The store and books were saved when a going out of business sale raised record revenue, and some politicos, including County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, and the Library of Congress, moved to stop the eviction.

Kamkin Books moved to the Gaithersburg site in mid 2002, Dawson said.
The store’s Web site says their books will now be sold exclusively online.
For many in the Russian immigrant community, the closing of the store is a dispirited ending to years of tradition, said some who watched the eviction process Wednesday morning.

The sight of books being destroyed was particularly disheartening to those from Russia, a culture that holds books in high regard, said Gayl Gutman, president of The Friends of Rockville Library, a nonprofit voluntary organization.

I bought many books, including my four-volume set of Dahl‘s great Russian dictionary, at the Rockville store, and I wish I’d had the opportunity to rummage through that dumpster before the books became landfill. I note that the Kamkin website says “We will no longer be offering books for retail sale through this website.” (Via Grant Barrett’s The Lexicographer’s Rules.)


  1. stavrogin says

    Is there some liability issue with papercuts that they couldn’t give them away?

  2. I was horrified to read this. What a loss…

  3. Oh, that’s sad. I remember walking into Kamkin’s six or seven years ago, picking up a Russian translation of Ada and being pleasantly surprised when the kindly old gentleman at the counter literally jumped up and sprinted over to stop me from making a terrible mistake; he preferred another translation.

  4. That’s a great story. So which was his preferred translation?

  5. Michael Idov says

    There are two Russian Adas that I know of, both awful; one by Oksana Kirichenko (“Ada, ili Erotiada”), one by Sergei Ilyin (“Ada, ili Radosti Strasti”). You can probably glean the whole picture from these two attempts to preserve a trace of the “ardor” pun at the expense of both meaning and taste. (I bought neither).

  6. Thanks. Somehow I’m not surprised.

  7. Can someone give me the contact number of the owner of the victor Kamkin store please

  8. Justin L. Smith says

    I bought several books from his wonderful store and was heartbroken when it shut down. Now I cannot find ANY of the nice old dictionaries he carried. Do you know where they can be found? All the stores I see online only sell newer paperback books. That’s not what I’m after.

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