Saturday, October 23, 2010

Browsing the bookshops on Calle Donceles....















I spent my formative teenage years hopping the train from Eltham to Central London and trawling the secondhand bookshops on the Charing Cross Road. I would spend hours there browsing the shelves, deliciously lost in a world of literature. Sadly most of these treasure troves have all but disappeared, but here in Mexico City there is Calle Donceles in the Centro Historico, home to second hand bookshops extraordinaire........


















They are the very best kind with untidy piles spread all over the floor and stepladders to reach the highest shelves - Heaven indeed!! Like many old cities, the Centro Historico has streets specialising in different wares - Donceles for books, Dolores for lighting (and Chinese food ), Madera for gold jewellery, Tacuba for perfume, Santo Domingo for printed stationery (and scribes for the illiterate) and so on... Here is a flavour of the colonial architecture along Calle Donceles when you stroll from bookshop to bookshop......


















..until you reach this beautiful building which was a former hospital for the female insane (present company excluded I hope...) Then you know you have reached the end of Calle Donceles and you are back on the busy Lazaro Cardenas.....









Interestingly, Calle Donceles has also begun to acquire a literary history all of its own. In Roberto Bolano's "Savage Detectives" his hapless and impoverished poets from the Visceral Realist movement are always stealing books from the shops on this street, and who can forget the chilling little advertisment which begins Carlos Fuentes' haunting tale "Aura" - "Donceles 815. Acuda en persona. No hay telefono." (Apply in person. There is no phone.) If only the protagonist had ignored that sign and walked on by!! To walk around other parts of the world this week, click here for My World Tuesday postings.... Where is your favourite secondhand bookshop??

14 comments:

garydenness said...

What a blast from two pasts! That street was one of the first places I really explored when I came to Mexico City. There's some amazing stuff to be found on their shelves. Some positively antique books!

And Charing Cross...I used to spend hours in those book shops too. There was one I loved especially. It was a real olden fashioned type shop, with a creaking spiral staircase down into a basement full of books and maps, with a plentiful supply of dust. I dreamed one day of owning that shop.

Secretly, I still do...

Catherine said...

I think I know exactly which bookshop you mean on the Charing Cross Rd - I wish I could remember what it was called, but like you it was more of a sensory experience going down into that basement...

A Cuban In London said...

Now, you got my attention with this post! I'm a second-hand book hoarder! . But I also loved the colours and architecture. Many thanks for this snippet of Mexico's literary life.

Greetings from London.

EG Wow said...

I'm very fond of second-hand bookshops! This looks like a magical world to me. I have the good fortune of setting up a big used-book sale this Friday (and so one of the first to have dibs on any books I might like). NOT as fantastic as your photos though!

Sylvia K said...

Oh, I love secondhand bookshops! And what a great post for the day, Catherine!! These are just terrific! Wish I was there right now! Have a wonderful week!

Sylvia

maryt/theteach said...

Catherine, beautiful inside and out! :)

ewok1993 said...

i look forward to your windows and doors. i love them.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Wow, very interesting. I love the photos of the stacks of books.

Kay L. Davies said...

I had a favorite secondhand book store in my home town, and one in the city next to the small town I live in now, where there is NO secondhand book store. I have half a mind to start one up with all (I mean some) of my books!!
I would love to spend some time on Calle Donceles. It sounds (and looks) wonderful.

Kay, Alberta, Canada

indicaspecies said...

Books, secondhand or new, are equally interesting. Good post. Have a lovely week.

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

Oh I used to love secondhand book stores and there are still lots left but I daren't visit them now!

Fly Girl said...

I share your passion (or affliction) too. I'm afaid my study is crowded with stacks of books and magazines because I love to browse in shops like these. And my daughter has inherited the habit so her room is overcome with books as well. I'd love to explore all the different streets dedicated to different shopping!

Catherine said...

glad so many of you are fellow bookshop browsers...thanks for all the comments this week - much appreciated

Irene said...

I did not discover Calle Donceles until the day before I had to leave Mexico City. So it is on the top of my list for a return visit. My favorite secondhand bookshop is the one that is run by our local library. Books that the library takes out of its system are sold and the funds raised are put back into library services. The bookstore is housed in a former branch library which just happens to be a Carnegie building so the architecture is beautiful inside and out.