Michaela Merz


Leave a comment

Murdering books


I have moved. In the office from the 2nd floor to the 5th floor. One can describe it as a meteoric rise because the 5th floor is the top floor in our building. And at the same time from one city to another. Every move means separation. I’m a collector and over the years numerous objects and material memories have collected. At both new locations I have less room than before and I could take only a little with me (no furniture at all). That meant that something had to go. It took weeks to separate myself from what I had grown to love. 

Imagine it like a picture: I stand in front of my large library and pick up every book again. I note that certain books I have not touched in over 20 years, except to dust them. Do I need such a book? Will I read it ever again in my whole life? At the time I read it, but today I have only a vague idea of what it was about. But with many of these books there is associated a memory of the circumstances, in which I read it. Perhaps in summer, during the school holidays. For a time I used to climb up into our apple tree and, sitting in the branches, to read books. Suddenly, the book in my hand, there is a smell of ripe apples again. The time that belongs in the last millennium seems as if it were only yesterday. If I now give this book away, the memory will be lost.

Before, my books were sacred. If there had been a fire, I would probably have tried to save them all. My children knew that they had much liberty, but should they damage one of the books, paint it or otherwise spoil it, there’ll be a row. Only once had my eldest, as a 3-year old, painted a picture in one of my books. I flipped out and she realised that she had found my Achilles’ heel. Clever as she is, she never again made the same mistake.

But if I now separate from a book, what shall I do with it? Earlier, when one had read a book, one could sell it or give it away. That doesn’t work any longer, because no-one wants them. In addition, many of my old books are in languages, which one very seldom hears in Switzerland and practically never sells as books. Therefore, the only way to get rid of books today is as waste paper. But you can’t get rid of the whole book as waste paper. The book covers have to be separated from the pages. They can be cut off with a knife.

Although today, I am prepared to get rid of many books. I’ll never read them again, a murder of a book. But stab them in the back, that I can’t do. Very conscientiously and very generously, I sorted out a lot of books. I wasn’t comfortable doing so. I knew that their fate was destruction. My heart was weeping, but I continued the liquidation. But I couldn’t do it in one go, because emotionally it so drained me – I had to do it bit by bit. Therefore the sorting took weeks.

But damage the books with a knife, that I couldn’t face myself. I had to ask for help. I also couldn’t watch. That was too painful.

Now I have moved. I have unpacked all my clothes, my office. But not yet the books. I know that the books I’ve moved are angry with me, although they have survived. I understand them, after all they have lost a lot of acquaintances. I also mourn their loss.