Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Books, bookshops and libraries

Once upon a time we lived in Ciudad Rodrigo in the province of Salamanca more or less on the border with Portugal. It was a lovely spot but it was a long way from home and, to be honest, it was a long way from anywhere. Our nearest hypermarket was about 120kms away in Salamanca City and the nearest Mini dealer was in Portugal.

At the time I commented on the difficulty of buying a book in a bookshop in Spain. Since then I have bought and read quite a few books in Spanish and I usually have a list of books that I want to read; I am catching up on a culture after all. The routine now, when I go into a bookshop, is to have a quick look where I think the book may be, and then, when it isn't, summon up my courage and ask.

I wanted to take a couple of books on holiday. I'd heard a programme on the radio about an author called Carmen Laforet and one of hers sounded good. We were going to an area in Spain called the Alcarria and there was another book, written in the 1940s by Camilo José Cela, about a chap wandering that area. It sounded good too. 

Both Cela and Laforet are famous, if a little old fashioned, in the Aldous Huxley, George Orwell or Virginia Woolf sort of way. I didn't have sufficient time for an Internet order and the p+p makes that an expensive option anyway. I tried our local newsagent cum bookshops and, predictably, they didn't have the books though both were willing to order them. Instead I diverted a little from one of our trips down to the coast and went to Alicante. I tried Fnac, Casa del Libro and el Corte Inglés - all three big booksellers - and manged to get one of the two. I tried again in Segovia and Aranjuez and nearer to home in Monóvar. In each case asking for the book caused either shelf rummaging or several minutes of computer tapping. In Segovia I had three people working for me for a few moments. They were only slightly less in the dark about where the book may be on the shelves than I was. No book.

Holiday over I checked the online library database and found that Pinoso library had the Cela book so, when they re-opened after fiestas, I popped in. The book was on the shelves, in fact it's been there since 1958 and it was a little worse for wear. Nonetheless, it still had legible printed words on a page and did the trick nicely.

Not too long ago, on the telly, there was a campaign to promote reading amongst the young. The slogan was something like "If you read, they'll read." Those parents are going to need a lot of staying power to get hold of the books they want if my experience is anything to go by.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Try They will send you what you order for free, if you buy some other books. is my favourite bookshop.

Laforet has nothing to do with Huxley or Orwell! Cela was a Nobel Prize. It sounds as if you are allways surprise of not finding culture in the middle of nowhere.
You won't find Barns& Noble here... and... why people don't read? Have you ever compared prizes of books in Spain and other countries?? Here, it is a luxury to read.