When I was little, my grandparents lived around the corner from a very special place.
Matica Srpska was… an institution. It was a venerable place, a library and a center of learning, an archive, a deep root into our history and all that had been written about it. It was, if you like, a Library of Congress, gathering everything published in Serbia – a copy of every published book had to find its way here. It’s a place where all things live and all things begin, where the language and the ideas of my ancestors are all kept and cherished and treasured for the generations to come.
We passed this building every day, my grandmother and I, as we walked from her house to the market. And I was very very young when I was first taken through its doors.
The bottom floor of Matica Srpska was a vast and glorious bookstore, a temple of books. I found many of my childhood treasures in here. I learned to love poetry in here. The first book I cried over was bought in this very store. There were books bought here which had been published a hundred years before I was born.
I dived into this place, and I never came up for air again – and I’ve been swimming in the sea of words ever since, language’s handmaiden, a word-mermaid plunging into the quiet blue depths and then coming up into the clear air again with pearls in my hands.
I shiver to realise that in only a handful of months, the Serbian translation of one of my books will be published in Belgrade – and, as such, a copy of that book may find its way into these hallowed halls, be shelved on the very same shelves which once held my own childhood.
Thus are circles completed.