book fairs · books

A Book Thief

It was a Winter book fair some four or five years ago. I remember standing by a stall, holding a couple of previously bought books and two other, picked up from that very stall, deciding which one to purchase since I could not afford both. People were crowding around, browsing, asking questions, handing money. The salesman was very busy and, naturally, unable to pay attention to everything that was going on around him. I thought how easily I could slip one of the books in my bag or under the books I came with. Steal one, pay for the other. No one would notice. And, due to my innocent looks, no one would suspect either. I joked about it with a friend and a regular companion to all the main book fairs, Joanna. We both agreed we couldn’t do it. I sighed for the lack of decisiveness, wished I wasn’t so good and thought how, if I did it, that salesman I’m looking at would have to pay for my naughtiness out of his own pocket…

(Interesting enough, the thought of stealing a library book never crossed my mind.)

Two evenings ago, the urge to permanently borrow a book almost overwhelmed me. Sitting in a small, cute cafe, a friend and I were browsing through some dozen books which stood on a pretty corner shelf. There it was – thin, pocket-sized, old tome of Khayyám’s Rubaiyat. Damaged spine, dark-green and black covers with Persian carpets motive. Inside, on the title page, a dedication (the contents of which I cannot remember!); and another one, struck through a number of times but still readable (which I haven’t read! ..why!?).                  

I was seriously tempted. I thought how, most probably, its absence wouldn’t be noticed and how, of course, the book would be better off with me (for only an ignorant and disinterested owner would expose such a precious object to the evils of the world).   

I almost took it… At the moment, I am sorry I couldn’t and haven’t. I should have done it – if not for the book itself then certainly to a punish the owner for playing painfully bad music in such a nice interior! 

‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

Omar Khayyám


3 thoughts on “A Book Thief

  1. Hahahaha…. that’s quite a thought, taking the Rubaiyat as ‘punishment’ to the owner for playing bad music. :P I have never read nor had any interest in it before, but the verses that you picked to share up there has made an impression now. Am thinking how difficult it must be to translate poetry from another language and still make it rhyme in English!

    1. Your comment reminded me to revisit Khayyam myself. :) I love these verses.
      Poetry is tough little devil indeed. And people who are poets themselves are usually the best translators of poetry. We had a professor at the University who was, still is, a noted poet. He taught poetry as well as its translation and was most insightful. He would spend hours talking about a certain choice of a word and it was never boring.

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