I have annoyed more than a few people with my hoarding habits, particularly with regard to books. I try to improve, but there are things which I simply cannot throw away, even though I shall probably never read them again, including, for example, my copy of August Šenoa’s novel Zlatarovo Zlato which I bought as a student in Zagreb, obsessed as I was with the beautiful old upper town and its history which still hung as thick in the air as fog. The language was so archaic that nearly every line is annotated with pencilled translations, but it’s the memory of that labour that is as sweet and enduring as the smell of autumn on Strossmayerovo šetalište, so it has to be that copy of the book.
I digress. I nearly threw away the little book pictured above, before I had looked at it properly. It’s an orthography of the Slovenian language published in Ljubljana in 1920. But I hadn’t, I finally realised, kept it for its content. For there in beautiful script on the front of the book, is the signature of its original owner, Boris Unbegaun (1898-1973), and the place – Ljubljana 1932 (or is it 1922?). Apart from being one of the editors of the Oxford Russian Dictionary, Unbegaun was the Mozart of Slavonic philology, and one whose life encompassed most of the largest upheavals in the Balkans and Eastern Europe which was his field. Call me old-fashioned or sentimental, but it sends a few historical shivers up my spine to be holding his copy of this little book.
[Earlier Ljubljana post]