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pol-laertesAlways wise advice – and when it comes to books… eh.

I belong to the foolish kind, though. I have trouble saying “no”. And I’m never smart enough to record what I lend to whom.

Then again, at times, it gets worse. There is this friend of my father’s. He borrowed my copy of Fred Uhlman‘s Reunion, to take with him on a trip. And left it behind in some hotel in Sicily. And half-heartedly tried to recover it, and ended buying me the whole trilogy in a different translation, instead. Next year, he wanted to borrow Schiller’s plays – to take to Sicily again… and do you think either of us had learnt anything? He got the book, went to Sicily, came back without my Schiller, bought me another one – and had the gall to tell me Schiller was a dead bore anyway.

Yes, well.

Then there are the ones who borrow, misplace, then find again and give back years later. This happened to me with Mann’s Buddenbrook. The borrower was a school friend, who kept it for ages, then blushingly confessed to losing my book – and what do you do? Much as one may wish it, one cannot very well kill a girl over a lost book – can one? Then, say, three or four years later, she informed me my Mann had been in her dad’s library all the time, and did I want it back?

Another time, out of misguided zeal, I lent a copy of my beloved Lord Jim to my uncle’s then fiancée – and then forgot about it*. Apparently, so did the fiancée, because a couple of years later, while browsing her library, I came across this familiar spine, and asked her where she’d got the book…

“Oh, who knows?” she said breezily. “Must have borrowed it somewhere, I don’t remember. Such a dreary, boring, stupid thing. Never went past page ten…”

“You borrowed it from me,” I informed her. “It is mine.”

Well, it’s not as though we’d liked each other before…

But these are the stories with a happy ending. Another schoolmate lost – irretrievably – my very vintage Ivanhoe. And a cousin still swears she gave me back a collection of short stories by Tolstoj I never saw again. And who knows who has still my copy of Durrell’s The Picnic and Suchlike Pandemoniums?

Yes – I’ve said it: I’m foolish, and I don’t even keep a list of my loans… To my credit, I’ve become slightly warier with the years. Now I choose with care who is going to walk away with my books. If I lend you a book, it must mean I trust you. Please, though, remember you had it from me – because I might forget…

But, as a happy ending to this post, I’ll relate one last little story. A couple of years ago, I lend Crane’s The Little Regiment to a pupil. Then the course ended, and we all went our separate ways, and my book never reappeared. We kept loosely in touch through Facebook, and I’m afraid I rather pestered the fellow for my Crane… Well, either he’d misplaced it and then found again, or I don’t know what happened – but last week I received a small, flat parcel in the mail, and what must it contain, but my (presumed) lost Crane?

As Miss Prism would say, I was delighted to have it so unexpectedly restored to me.

So, what about you? Do you borrow books? And lend them? And how do you go about getting them back?

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* It was not *my* copy, or I would have known.

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