World Book Night 2011 and Happy Birthday Gabo!

Most of my own little box of World Book Night books went in a trice.  Yesterday I picked up 48 copies of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, in Edith Grosmann’s brilliant translation.  It’s exciting that this coincided with Gabo’s 83rd birthday tomorrow (6 March).

The opening sentence is so evocative: “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” I agree with Edith Grosmann who, in a recent interview on Radio 4’s Front Row, said that Garcia Marquez was the best writer of love stories.

My father died recently and I took this passage from the book very much to heart:

“If I knew that today would be the last time I’d see you, I would hug you tight and pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul. If I knew that this would be the last time you pass through this door, I’d embrace you, kiss you, and call you back for one more. If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already.” (Postscript: these beautiful words are allegedly attributed to Garcia Marquez, but if anyone knows the exact source please tell me!)

But to get back to World Book Night, the first book went to a friend who came to supper last night, then this morning I gave out another 15 to fellow passengers waiting to catch the train at Waverley.   We were only travelling as far as Newcastle, but all of those I approached were eager to have a good book to keep them company however long their journey.

The reason for going to Newcastle was to listen to a fabulous concert given by the Six Bridges String Ensemble at the Sage, and a pre-concert lunch provided an ideal opportunity to offer another 15 books or so (the rest of the carrier bag load) to some of the players – most of whom are students at Newcastle University – who were really keen to receive copies.  The performance of Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings in E Major was extremely moving: precise but beautifully calibrated and elegantly played with verve and grace.

So, doing the sums, that means I have another 17 to go: our train only came in an hour or so ago, and I’m using a little poetic licence to interpret “World Book Night” to mean “World Book The Day After”.    My plan is to target young readers tomorrow at a nearby shopping centre: I thought I’d catch those with Sunday jobs working in some of the big chain stores and cafes.   But given that Florentino waits 51 years, nine months and four days for a chance to re-announce his love for Fermina, I’d be delighted to hand the book out to older shoppers too.  Waiting a day also means that I can tell everyone that it’s the author’s birthday!

About Lucy Byatt

I'm a translator, from Italian into English. I also teach Italian Renaissance history and write.
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