Tarnów. Uncle Bem’s grave between heaven and earth. The museum of Polish-Hungarian friendship. An old trading town between Krakow and Lwów, later the first station of the Galician railway: a Renaissance main square with wealthy merchant houses, a contiguous Art Nouveau palace row along the old town walls. A great Jewish past, a rich history, illustrious families, Hungarian connections, still standing synagogues, palaces, cemeteries. A gorgeous photo album on old Tarnów, with two hundred and fifty rarely seen pictures, mainly from private collections, with Polish and English parallel text. I have read it and scanned whatever I needed from it, and now I would give it away to the central library of Budapest, so that others could have access to it.
She’s turning it in her hands, like the border guard with the red-skinned passport of Mayakovsky. “I’ll take it in, I’ll ask about it.” After a while, she’s back. “They say, you should take it to the Polish institute, here they do not read in this language.” “But this is a photo album, the history of a city, with important and rare pictures. And look, there is the English parallel text on every page.” “Oh, really.” She struggles. “Leave it here, my boss is not in now, I should ask her whether we need it.” “But you will not throw it out, will you? Because then please give it back, I can give it away somewhere else.” “No, no. As to throwing it out, we won’t do that.” “Thank you.”
Silesia. Goethe’s Arcadia, the cultural hinterland of 19th-c. Berlin – “jeder zweite Berliner stammt aus Schlesien” –, the lost Transylvania of post-war Germany. Breslau/Wrocław, the disappeared city and the one that never was. Literature about Silesia, relaunched in the 90s after a long break, is summarized by the recent book by Hans-Dieter Rutsch, which gives an overview of the modern German reception of Silesia, from German Romanticism to the turn of the millennium. I buy it right after publication, I read it, and I take notes. Then I’d like to give it away.
At the loan desk of Berlin’s Staatliche Bibliothek they are grateful for the book, they say thanks, and it seems that they are really happy about it. And a few weeks later they send me a letter from the acquisition department of the library.