Lost Libraries

2012

photo, digital print, installation, drawing, video

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Private libraries existed before public ones, in fact they formed their foundation. For example, when we talk about libraries destroyed during the war, we are thinking mostly about large collections of books. And what about small libraries, even containing an insignificant number of publications? They were located at the margins of knowledge and instantly disappeared from our awareness. After 1945 one of the Warsaw newspapers published articles about lost libraries. I will quote one story here. Miss Halina Latwis from Warsaw owned the book collection of Witold Hulewicz, poet, critic, translator of such writers as Rilke or Thomas Mann, an extraordinary figure unknown to a wider audience. Latwis tried to save this collection, she brought the books to a bookstore and asked that the collection be kept in one place. But during the war the library was dispersed. When I was in Warsaw, I tried to find fragments of the collection. In the National Library I came across one book, with a dedication for Latwis. I expected that the National Library would be the right place, because after the war private books were gifted to it, as people wanted to help in reconstructing the national collection. These are small stories, but sometimes more important than the large narratives which we know.