Thursday, July 03, 2008
Bookshops and the state of a nation
Can you tell the state of a nation by the quality of its bookshops? My question is prompted by a recent visit to France where, once again, I was astounded by the range and quality of books on display in the country's bookshops. It wasn't just in the university city of Nantes, it was also in provincial towns such as La Roche sur Yon where the independent Mediastore carried a range of books and music that not only put to shame Britain's retailers but also proved irresistible. So from a major display of books commemorating 1968 I splurged on Les années 68 which provides a world view on that extraordinary year.
An equally impressive music range yielded, among other CDs, Taksim Trio, a new release from the Turkish label Doublemoon which has featured here before. The trio of Hüsnü Senlendirici on clarinet, Ismail Tunçbilek on baglama and Aytaç Dogan on quanun dance between traditional, arabesque, jazz and classical styles in an album that is categorised as world music but which is really quintessentially Turkish. The 'taksims' of the title refer to the improvisations on the album, but Taksim Square is also the public space in Istanbul where private political frustrations become public demonstrations. Taksim Square features on the album sleeve above and also in my photo below of a political demonstration, which I took when I visited Istanbul last year.
Sadly, the political climate in Turkey is once again volatile following this week's arrest of two retired army generals as part of an investigation into a series of high profile killings. The plot also, allegedly, included a plan to murder the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk who controversially stepped out-of-line by writing about the 1915 ethnic cleansing of Armenians. Which seems to confirm that books, if not bookshops, are a good measure of the state of a nation.
More French passion for books here, possibly the best record store in the world here and lots of Turkish resources here.
Taksim Square photo (c) On An Overgrown Path 2008. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk