Since the beginning of the Corona lockdown.
I often see books in the streets
Put outside by residents of my town
Sometimes, with a small card: Books for free
Or without comment
It can be seen as a gesture of solidarity to help the community deal with loneliness or boredom, or people getting busy with cleaning up their apartments, getting rid of what they do not really need anymore
Finding Brockenhause closed, the street is the nearest open space
Although a friend told me, with a joking smile
That I shame him,
I couldn’t stop myself from bringing home
Some of these abandoned books
I call it my Corona special edition.
According to the titles, my neighbours have quiet a good book taste:
The Human Stain by Philip Roth
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Istanbul, Memories of a City by Orphan Pamuk
Waiting by Ha Jin
Interestingly, there is also a tendency of getting rid of
Life counselling books:
I Ching, Ancient Wisdom for Modern Decision-Making by Christopher Markert
The Emotional Energy Factor by Mira Kirshenbaum
How to read this?
One possible interpretation: Life counselling books are attractive as leisure crisis readings, but in times of real crises, they are useless. Coping processes are most helpful when they come from inner intuition and with lockdown, most people have so much time, and silence – unless they are busy with digital “noise” – that they start listening and hearing that inner voice.
One book jumps somehow out of the reading pattern of my neighbours.
Making Babies. A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility by Sami S. David and Jill Blakeway.
One possible interpretation of finding this book in the street: The baby project was successful. Or it could be read in the sense of Ernest Hemingway: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
A friend of mine wanted me to put the book back into the street, afraid that I would feel inspired and contribute to embryo production during intensified couple time during Corona lockdown.
To my big surprise:
I never found poetry books in the street.
There are two possible interpretations of that phenomenon:
One: people don’t have poetry books,
Or, second: people don’t give them away.
I tend to believe in the second one: People don’t get rid of poetry books, especially not in times of crises.
Andrea Grieder is a poet and social anthropologist. She is the founder and director of Transpoesis, an organization based in Rwanda with the aim to empower through Poetry. Originally from Switzerland, she has a Ph.D. from the University of Zurich and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris. She is a lecturer at the University of Technology and Arts of Byumba (UTAB), Rwanda.