Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Strange Library




On his way from school, a boy visits the library. He is a dutiful reader and library-user as returns his book on time:
“I’m always on time, and I never hand things in late. That’s the way my mother taught me. Shepherds are the same. If they don’t stick to their schedule, the sheep go completely bananas.”
He wants to find out how taxes were collected in the Ottomon empire and because such a thought strikes his mind, he wants to find out more as his mother has taught him. On asking about this, he is directed to a special section of the library. 

He meets a strange old man who assists him by bringing him three thick tomes on the subject-The Ottoman Tax System, The Diary of an Ottoman Tax Collector, and Tax Revolts and Their Suppression in the Ottoman Turkish Empire- and lets him read them on the condition that he should sit in the library and read them.

He tells the old man that his mother will get upset if he doesn’t return home on time just like the time when he was bitten by a big black dog. The old man is furious that the boy wants to go home in spite of the assistance that he has provided:
“When I was your age I felt fortunate just to have the chance to read. And here you are, whining about the time and being late for dinner. What nerve!”
The buy promises to sit and read for thirty minutes and he is taken to a “Reading Room”, an enormous labyrinth in the basement of the library. 

He meets  a sheep man who makes good doughnuts and obeys all the orders of the Old man. He discovers that the Old man wants to eat his brains and when he asks the reason for that the sheep man replies : “Because brains packed with knowledge are yummy, that’s why. And sort of grainy at the same time”. 

A girl comes in bringing him a sumptuous meal and he is struck by her beauty. She can only speak with her hands and she tells him that her vocal cords were destroyed when she was a child. He finds that the library has turned out be a prison and he is not able to get out.He finds that the sheep man and the beautiful girl belong to two different worlds; that the boy concludes : “Our worlds are all jumbled together- your world, my world, the sheep man’s world. Sometimes they overlap and sometimes they don’t. That’s what you mean, right?” 

He worries about his mother and his pet magpie. As if to make his fears true he is held a prisoner and his pet magpie is eaten by a dog before his very eyes.  What happens to the boy? 

A little Kafkaesque and absurd, the novel captures an atmosphere similar to The Trial and brings in a sense of terror to the act of  visiting a library. In spite of the  way in which it portrays the strangeness of life, this illustrated novella can make you feel hungry too!


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