There was a time when we stole books. Especially in the bookstores, we had no money; but we also stole from each other. It was not uncommon that after a dinner with friends, in the small places we inhabited, we noticed the disappearance of some of our books. It did not matter too much, we knew that we would do the same as soon as they invited us to some other people's house. We stole books, prized objects at that time, in a context in which we also stole discourses, political positions or anecdotes naturally: many times X told as his own an experience that Y had narrated in Z's house the previous week. The subtle pleasure of appropriating other people's fictions.
But once, after a birthday, someone took Perec's The infraordinary from my apartment. My favorite of Perec was Life, instructions of use, surely due to his large size no one dared to hide it in his clothes. But I loved The Infraordinary, it was small, a beautiful edition and it had also been given to me by a person whom I loved very much, just before she went to live in another country. Not only had she given it to me, she had dedicated it and decorated it with a hasty portrait of me inside the book. All an excess! I had an attack of hatred towards my acquaintances. I conducted an investigation worthy of the secret service of a dictatorial country. I couldn't find out who had taken it.
Almost fifteen years later, at the beginning of the pandemic, a friend invited me to have lunch at his house. We hadn't seen each other for a long time. The first news of the virus began to be known and that completely occupied our conversation. Perhaps because it was an old friend, before I left, I stopped at an old ritual: superficially checking his library to see what he was reading, something I don't do with almost anyone anymore. And there I found it, The Infraordinary was gathering dust on a lower shelf. One glance reached me to see that it was mine. There was no point in questioning a long-standing friendship over the discovery of his old crime, but I found that I still remembered how to swiftly slide a book between my clothes. I did not consider that stole it because I was recovering it, there is no possible discussion about it.
During the pandemic I read it again. Inevitably I wondered about the person I was 15 years ago and about what that person would have seen in that book, I did not know how to remember clearly neither one thing nor the other. But I did marvel again at Perec's ability to make the seeming banality of everyday life epic. In times where the world seems to be written by a lousy scriptwriter addicted to great catastrophic events, to find those little stories interviewed from a window or stolen from the corner that we cross every day is to arrive on an island in the middle of the storm.
Mariano Pensotti, Buenos Aires, 7 April 2021