As I mentioned on the blog a couple weeks ago, I recently went on vacation to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was an amazing trip of both sight-seeing and relaxing . . . but that’s not what I want to write about here.
I want to write about books! One thing that really stuck with me—especially after Nashville’s been hit with so many bookstore closings—is how many librerías there are in the streets of BA. I felt like I could hardly walk two blocks without running into a store window packed with books.
Of course, my favorite of all was El Ateneo, the grand store that’s housed in an old theater. It was packed to the brim when I visited, and I loved that the former private boxes had been turned into cozy reading areas. As you can see from this photo, I saw some familiar bestsellers on the shelves!
The biggest surprise of all for this book-lover was learning that Buenos Aires is the Capital Mundial del Libro for 2011. I learned this when I stumbled upon the “Tower of Babel” in the Plaza San Martin—a huge temporary tower made from 30,000 books and designed by Argentine conceptual artist Marta Minujin.
It’s pretty stunning, no? For scale, just know that I’m 5’10.
The tower includes books from many different languages—I spotted Isabel Allende, John Updike, John Knowles . . . The books are supposed to create a “multilingual library,” according to Minujin’s website. “The tower structure is a helical structure of seven stories high covered with 30,000 books in different languages and dialects that reminds us of the mythical Tower of Babel.” Here’s a close-up:
As you might imagine, it was a bummer to come back to the “real world” at the end of my vacation. Happily, though, on my second day back at work I came across a very appropriate new book: The Foreigners by Maxine Swann. This novel comes out from Riverhead on August 18, and it’s about three women who experience an awakening in Buenos Aires. According to Penguin’s publicity materials, it’s set against “the throbbing backdrop of this shimmering and decadent city—almost a character in itself.”
I have big plans to spend my long weekend seeking out an Argentine Malbec and diving into the story. I’ll let you know what I think, but I have high hopes.
Have any of you experienced any book-related adventures in a new city? What’s the coolest book art you’ve ever seen?
Are any books currently helping you get over the post-vacation blues?