On the value of second-hand books
–quoted from Alexander Werth’s “Russia at War 1941-1945” (Carroll and Graf, NY 1964)–
“When I went to Leningrad in September 1943, the German lines were still two miles from the Kirov Works, on the southern outskirts of the city. The total population had now been reduced to some 600,000 and the city, though beautiful as ever despite considerable damage cause by shells, bombs and fires, had a strange and half-deserted look. There was practically no more bombing, but the shelling was frequent, and often deadly.
“Yet, in a strange way, life seemed almost to have returned to normal. Most of the city looked deserted, and yet, in the late afternoon, there were large crowds of people walking about the “safe” side of the Nevsky Prospect (the shells normally landed on the other side).
“And the ‘Writers’ Bookshop’ near the Anichov Bridge in the Nevsky was doing a roaring trade in second-hand books. Millions of books had been burned as fuel in Leningrad during the famine winter; and yet many people had died before having had time to burn their books, and—a cruel thought—some wonderful bargains were to be got.”