Russians have a reputation for being voracious readers – as any metro passenger can hardly fail to have noticed. For many, the daily commute has long been transformed by Anna Karenina’s fateful final journey or a quick hop on the Hogwarts Express … or at the very least a dabble in the latest Darya Dontsova page-turner. But as iPads and Kindles begin to claw eyeballs away from old-school ink and paper, one corner of a leafy Moscow boulevard is striking back.
Amid the trees and birdboxes of Chistiye Prudy, an enterprising bibliophile has added a ‘wordbox’ to the local amenities.
Chained to a tree opposite the Sovremenik Theater, this mini-biblioteka carries a handful of volumes, perfect for anyone who might be seeking to while away a moment or two on a nearby bench. There are apparently no rules about who can borrow, or for how long, and the turnover of titles suggests that many readers take the opportunity to swap their own discarded books for something new, creating an informal book-sharing cooperative in the city. And, with the nearby Dostoevsky Library closed until September for refurbishment, it’s fulfilling a local need for access to literature. You suspect that Griboyedov and Abai, whose statues decorate the Prudy pathways, might approve.
It’s not the first time Chistiye Prudy has had an unlikely library in recent months: late last year activist Eldar Badyrkhanov helped to set up a “Homeless Library” next to that Griboyedov statue. Within a couple of weeks, having gained official backing, he and his colleagues had more than 400 donated volumes and about 50 volunteers, plus a more permanent home in an adaptation for people without an official residence. And, with the warm weather returning, the “Homeless Library” scheme is also set to return to the streets.
Republished with kind permission from RUSSIA!