Monday, January 25, 2010

A note from the past

A few years ago I came across José Suárez Carreño’s The Final Hours at an antique bookstore. I had never heard anything about Carreño but after flipping through a few pages, I decided to give the book a try. The 1953 hardcover book turned out to be the first American edition of the book and it was in surprizingly good condition, considering that the book was more than 5 decades old.  I started reading the book but for whatever reason, I never finished it and put it aside.  However, a few days ago I re-discovered the book and started to read through it again.  This time around I made a surprizing discovery.  Turning through the pages, I came across the following handwritten note buried halfway through the book:

This is the most horribly sordid book I have ever read. It makes one feel indecent & unclean, nearly made me sick! Thought you might like to read it though. Most extraordinary - what a mind Carreño must have! And it won a prize!! Don’t return it - burn it!

Now, I have bought many antique and second hand books in my life but this is the first time I have come across a handwritten note tucked away in any of the books.  At most, I have books which have some comments written on a page but this handwritten note is something else entirely.  Ofcourse, this means I have to finish the book to see what triggered these comments. Interestingly, whoever borrowed the book clearly did not follow the instructions to burn it. The borrower probably sold the book to a second hand bookstore and from there it must have changed many hands before landing up in my city. But the question is when was the note written? On the inside cover, there is a scribbled mark “Victoria/57” followed by a stamp giving a shop name & address in Victoria, B.C.  So that means this book was sold via the Victoria bookstore but the note must have been a recent thing because otherwise someone would have removed the note. Or maybe the note has persisted through subsequent sales because either no one got past page 146 or people decided that the note is part and parcel of this book's life.

No comments: