The dusty stacks of books at the Gower street branch of Waterstones stretch from wall to wall and up to the ceiling. World history in front of me, children’s books to my right, all previously owned. All books that used to have a home and were held in someone else’s hands, and now are on the way to a new home. It feels a little like a shelter for lost animals. But without the depressing howls and yips. An old man with chalk white long hair is bending down reading titles from the bottom shelf of the antiquarian shelves. He looks a little like Harrison Ford might in twenty years. He walks passed me and goes on to classic literature. His step is quick and firm, not one matching his age. As are his eyes. They dart along the shelves. When he spots something that interests him, he pauses and leans closer, double checking the title before pulling a tome off the shelf.
There is an event on Miłosz, a Polish Nobel prize winner, taking place in the room next to where I am sitting. The author of the biography is sharing stories about the poet and about all the people who he met with, who in turn knew Miłosz. The poet wrote a poem about a friend of his and described the man as a person of great wisdom and of goodness. I like that. Apparently, it was impossible to mention or talk about Miłosz during the communist era in Poland but after it ended, the famed poet joined staff at the magazine that the author of the biography worked in. He always warmly accepted interview requests, and worked incredibly hard on his writing. He was eager to promote his poems and discuss literature in general. He had a breadth of knowledge on innumerable subjects, so would always be asked to write articles on those.
Perhaps that’s something that comes with age – a breadth of knowledge and patience with honing your writing. Something that comes from reading many books like the ones on these shelves and giving them a forever home.