El infinito en un junco (2019) is an essay on the history of books. Irene Vallejo blows the dust off ancient history volumes and with the zeal one tells a child their bedtime story, she weaves the tale of one of humanity’s noblest efforts: the attempt to guard our fictions from the damages of time. Vallejo recovers forgotten threads and as the minutiae of that universal mesh emerge and reconfigure, she unravels the dawn of literary tradition. The peculiarities of baked clay, papyrus, parchment, paper. The rituals each material calls for —by the way, it was common courtesy to rewind the scrolls after reading them. Female writers from Antiquity, and Enheduanna, the priestess who signed a text fifteen hundred years before Homer. The obsessions that fueled the creation of the Great Library of Alexandria. The invention of the bound book, which was easy to hide between the folds of a tunic and “succeeded, mostly, because it favored clandestine reads”. It is the history of the frailty of libraries in the face of violence and fire, of the battling power of books “as effective medical kits against despair”: their role in the gulag, in nazi concentration camps, in the little tragedies of the author’s life and in those of each reader mirrored in her story. A vindication of the silent defiance of books; of the refined simplicity of an object designed to survive brevity and oblivion.
FOTOGRAFÍA: UKI ESPONA