Hubby and I went shopping the day before yesterday and my feet are still aching after the trip. But now the bookcase is five books and one periodical richer. I don’t know how it is that I am not surgically fixed to the many good second-hand bookstores in Copenhagen, but I must count my lucky stars that I don’t live in the city, otherwise I would spare no expense and make no excuses whenever I walked by one of those homely smelling shops that are lacing the city center. Well, I would probably not go broke, since the last items I bought were a whopping DKK 5,- a piece, but due to this low prize hubby had to entice, scold, command and drag me out of the shop, fingers clawing at every protruding shelf and book in sight.
I am constantly amazed at the volumes and themes that fill these shelves – some are interesting and other’s make you wonder why on earth this made it through printing. On one of the shelves a 20 volume encyclopaedia in beautiful leather binding occupied most of the space with topics spanning from cattle breeding to the Hapsburg family tree. Outdated and almost redundant in these days of online information searches, for sure; but not without its charm and oh, the fragrance! However, on this particular day, I went for the small, but meaningful choices.
The faculty of humanities in Denmark has been under attack on several fronts these last years, one of which has been what the students are, or more importantly are not learning – with no shortage of indignation by various criers who cannot get over the fact that this or that branch of humanities does not know the great insert-name-here. That in combination with the canon of culture that was imposed upon the land some years ago led my eyes towards the little blue book from 1955 with the nice free birds fleeing the cover (ornithologists or twitchers may use the comment field to enlighten us non-bird people as to what sorts these creatures are). Titled “The book of literature”, works are selected, as stated in the introduction, to show the “riches we have in our classic literature” and to make “you into a reader” with works spanning from ballads to the early 1920s. And so Kingo, Johannes Ewald, Oehlenschläger, Grundtvig, H.C. Andersen and Johannes V. Jensen are shoo-in’s for the collection. What is interesting is that it is completely devoid of female participation. Whether it is for lack of trying or for the simple reason that maybe women pre-1920s don’t write, the editor’s do not say. And what exactly their definition of ‘reader’ is, is also not stated. But I am guessing that it is what you become if you read these texts.
Just before I was hauled out of the bookstore I managed to grab onto a periodical that screamed ’80s’ at me. Turned out to be quite an amusing piece of reading called HUG! no. 32, whose theme was “At the mercy of the big city” from 1981. It’s very fascinating to browse through since so much focus to this day is on the city, both architecturally and culturally speaking. There is even a 2-year interdisciplinary uni-education called 4cities that focuses on urban studies using Brussels, Copenhagen, Vienna and Madrid as a backdrop. Back in the periodical, one contribution is focused on the futuristic Copenhagen in the year 2000 with suggestions spanning from banning cars and, of course, a broad wish amongst the younger generation for the founding of the now much scolded and torn-down Youth House (which was realised a year later, in 1982). Then as now Danes’ fascination with Berlin is distinctive, which becomes obvious as I read the periodical. There is a short story and a feature on the city culture of West-Berlin by Carsten Jensen (who is also editor of HUG), a couple of subculture pieces (punk and skinheads) and a translation of Ulla Meinecke’s “Überdosis Großstadt”.
All in all I was quite satisfied with my loot and in the time to come I hope to do much more book(s)hopping in various second-hand bookshops – ironically, in the nearest future this will be done in Berlin 🙂 If you have any good tips on Berlin bookshops I cannot go without seeing do comment.
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