Jun 4, 2021 | Articles, Featured

The guest authors of our Foco Sinais show us around their library

We all place our books in a secret order, even though we are sometimes reluctant to admit it.

We recently moved out of the house in which we had been living for eight years –it wasn’t a big house. It’s hard to believe we managed to fit so many things in it, including a bunch of books. Years ago, when our separate book collections came together, each one of us was worried and somehow scared of losing their books among the other’s. We didn’t discuss it openly, but we tried to establish several separate spaces, drawing limits and clear separations. We even went as far as to keeping separate shelves, as an attempt to keep alive the discourse of property, and also that of an independent identity, which was defined by objects more than it was by the ideas those very objects instigated. Having been the first to read or discover a book –or, the most shameful excuse: having been the first to buy it– granted one or the other the status of rightful owner. At least this is what we used to think.

This narrative, however, didn’t last long. Our book collection soon entered a new phase that led to its very destruction.

Our collection started to grow autonomously and uncontrollably, generating a number of alliances, inherent to itself, which happened to be much more interesting than any pre-planned order. The shelves offered to our sight clusters of books that distracted and irritated our eyes –it was almost impossible to find what we wanted in a quick, effective way. Over the years, it just got worse. The books had established their own order –one that was hidden, hard to classify, and which admirably exceeded our ideological references.  We were ignorant of it, but our house hosted a brilliant chaos. Its communicating vessels expanded underground, guided by an invisible convergence of life experiences, or by the (sometimes arid) itinerary of those ideas and intuitions that never revealed themselves to us completely, even if we made great efforts to chase them.

But, as we already pointed out, we only realized this when we faced the task of cleaning and packing every single book. It was too late. Our epiphany came with the very destruction of our collection.

Now, those very books bathe in sunlight. They look more comfortable, they look cleaner, they look more appealing. They’re sorted by topic, by discipline, by a mix of the two. Some of them have been banished and now live in a suitcase, on top of a cupboard, waiting for one last trip to the garbage container.

Our library is now a practical space. The right word would be: efficient. Seeing it puts you in a somehow calm state; it’s never been more convenient. But, as time goes by, it makes us anxious and suspicious. Maybe nostalgic. We don’t know if it will ever return to its natural state. We hope it can guide and enlighten us in a way we can’t really explain. Only time will tell.

That nostalgic feeling –awakened by Elena Duque’s request of a list of bibliographic references– is what led us to curate this selection: a list of books that we especially like, books that we find poignant, and books that once pushed us into the abyss: a bunch of books that could have shared the same shelf in our gone book collection. Here they are.

The first one on the shelf is a large hardcover book that works as an overflow basin for the rest: the powerful and compelling From Hell by Alan Moore, illustrated by Eddie Campbell –a book that takes us on a trip into the dark depths of Western civilization. W.I.T.C.H. (Conspiración Terrorista Internacional de las Mujeres del Infierno), a book published by La Felguera Ediciones (who are our dear friends and colleagues) that we love because of its small size: it’s perfect to carry around and read, whenever you might need, it, a quote that will stimulate you and brighten your day. La Sorcière by Jules Michelet, and Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici are two good complementary readings that work perfectly as a whole. To control the world, Federici says, it was necessary to disenchant it first. Moore, like many other authors, shows us that magic is still alive in the world, it is part of life, and remains as a form of insubordination and resistance to power. Raoul Vaneigem’s Treaty of Knowing How to Live for the Use of the Young Generation, a book to read when you’re eighteen that should be dusted off from time to time to open it at a random page and read it aloud. 100% fun. The works by Carmelo Lisón de Tolosana encourage us to follow the tracks of the common, of the popular, looking into the documents to unearth that which the documents themselves intend to hide or erase. Wonderful stories of horror and resistance, like the ones we find in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish –once you start, you keep reading for hours. In To Our Friends, by The Invisible Committee, we found, years ago, some references to stick to. Just like in La vie matérielle by Marguerite Duras, who we greatly admire. With her Wartime Notebooks, however, she took us down to the abyss to show us the furthest edge of human nature. In Eduardo Guzmán’s La muerte de la esperanza we caught a glimpse of it again, but it also brought us some light, helping us to reconcile with the streets and spaces we inhabit in Madrid. We felt something similar reading Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. Those are readings that urge us to face ghosts –so necessary, so loved. Like the ones in the tales that the great Ivan Turgenev’s included in his A Living Relic. The gates of law, the delirium in The Castle by Kafka –that great creator of unforgettable images and stunning journeys, as stunning are the images in Flights (Olga Tokarczuk) and Parte de una historia (Ignacio Aldecoa): two books that show a deep understanding of the connecting points and the distances in the insular world. To close this list, at the other end of the shelf (mirroring Moore’s From Hell) Stephen Ellcock’s All Good Things: A Treasury of Images to Uplift the Spirits and Reawaken Wonder takes the last centimeters of space left. Is there a better book for these turbulent, exciting times?