The London Library in Books

Nicht nur waren – und sind – es zahlreiche Schriftsteller, die ihre Bücher ganz, teilweise und/oder mit Hilfe der London Library verfassen, sondern die Bibliothek taucht auch immer mal wieder im einen oder anderen Buch auf. LoL ist in gerade in letzter Zeit zwei Mal der Bibliothek begegnet.

Zum einen in A. S. Byatt’s Possession. A Romance. Das Buch beginnt in der London Library, wo der Wissenschaftliche Assistent Roland in einem Buch, das einst dem Viktorianischen Poeten und Gegenstand von Roland’s Forschung Randolf Henry Ash gehörte. Die Zeilen beschreiben wunderbar die Atmosphäre in der Bibliothek, die sich auch nach 20 Jahren (die Handlung spielt in 1986/87) nicht wesentlich geändert hat:

The book was thick and black and covered with dust. Its boards were bowed and creaking; it had been maltreated in its own time. Its spine was missing, or rather protruded from amongst the leaves like a bulky marker. It was bandaged about and about with dirty white tape, tied in a neat bow. The librarian handed it to Roland Mitchell, who was sitting waiting for it in the Reading Room of the London Library. It had been exhumed from Locked Safe no. 5 where it usually stood between Pranks of Priapus and The Grecian Way of Love. It was ten in the morning, one day in September 1986. Roland had the small single table he liked best, behind a square pillar, with the clock over the fireplace nevertheless in full view. To his right was a high sunny window, through which you could see the high green leaves of St James’s Square.

The London Library was Roland’s favourite place. It was shabby but civilised, alive with history but inhabited also by living poets and thinkers who could be found squatting on the slotted metal floors of the stacks, or arguing pleasently at the turning of the stair. Here Carlyle had come, here George Eliot had progressed through the bookshelves. Roland saw her black silk skirts, her velvet trains, sweeping compressed between the Fathers of the Church, and heard her firm foot ring on metal among German poets. Here Randolph Henry Ash had come, cramming his elastic mind and memory with unconsidered trifles from History and Topography, from the felicitous alphabetical conjunctions of Science and Miscellaneous – Dancing, Deaf and Dumb, Death, Dentistry, Devil and Demonology, Distribution, Dogs, Domestic Servants, Dreams.

(Byatt, A.S. Possession. A Romance. London: Vintage, 1991. S. 1-2)

Zum anderen in Alan Bennett’s kurzer, höchst amüsanter Geschichte The Uncommon Reader, in welcher die Queen das Lesen für sich entdeckt und ihrer Umgebung damit höchstes Unbehagen bereitet. Zum Lesen kommt sie durch die zufällige Entdeckung der City of Westminster travelling library, die einmal in der Woche auch im Palast Halt macht und in der sie, aus lauter Verlegenheit, schliesslich ein Buch ausleiht. Um ihre Leselust zu stillen, macht sie bald auch von anderen Bibliotheken Gebrauch:

Seeing that Ackerley had written an autobiography, she sent Norman down to the London Library to borrow it. Patron of the London Library, she had seldom set foot in it and neither, of course, had Norman, but he came back full of wonder and excitement at how old-fashioned it was, saying it was the sort of library he had only read about in books and had thought confined to the past. He had wandered through its labyrinthine stacks marvelling that these were all books that he (or rather She) could borrow at will. So infectious was his enthusiasm that next time, the Queen thought, she might accompany him.

(Bennett, Alan. The Uncommon Reader. London: Profile Books, 2008. S. 19-20)

Nicht nur ihre Untergebenen verwirrt die neugewonnene Leselust der Queen, auch ihren Hunden (die eigentlich daran Schuld sind) kommt das Ganze sehr komisch vor – sehr zum Leidwesen der London Library:

Did her Majesty ever let a book fall to the carpet it would straightaway be leaped on by any attendant dog, worried and slavered over and borne to the distant reaches of the palace or wherever so that it could be satisfyingly torn apart. The James Tait Black prize nothwithstanding, Ian McEwan had ended up like thiss and even A. S. Byatt. Patron of the London Library though she was, Her Majesty regularly found herself on the phone apologising to the renewals clerk for the loss of yet another volume.

(Bennett, Alan. The Uncommon Reader. London: Profile Books, 2008. S. 36)


One response to “The London Library in Books

  1. Pingback: “Wir haben einen Bücherbus” | haftgrund

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