It’s been a long time since I’ve done an Interiors post, and as you know that I love libraries I decided to return to that subject–and I also chose this photo because it happened to be open in a browser window on my desktop for the past few days, where I sought it out as a visual aid for a scene in the novel I’m writing called The Garden of Memory. This is one of the main reading rooms in the National Library of the Argentine Republic (Biblioteca Nacional de la República Argentina) in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. The modernity of this room, filled with concrete and glass, reflects the Brutalist style of its architect, Clorindo Testa, who designed the library beginning in 1961, though construction did not begin until another decade had passed. You can definitely see a kind of modernity here that was popular in the last third of the 20th century, but there’s also a nod to more traditional library design, especially the green-shaded banker’s lamps over the tables. At center you can also see a photographic mural of the reading room of the old Argentine National Library, originally built in 1901.
I’ve never been here, but the Argentine National Library figures large in my imagination. Before this building became the headquarters–it was dedicated in 1992–the director of the Library was none other than Jorge Luis Borges, the brilliant author of magical realism who, more than any other single writer (yes, even Edward Packard) fired my imagination and inspired my writing. My 2016 novel The Valley of Forever is deliberately “Borgesian” in its subject and style, as is its follow-up, The Garden of Memory, not yet finished; a scene in that novel takes place in this very room. The old (pre-1990s) Argentine National Library is where the magical “Book of Sand” (a book with an infinite number of pages) is hidden in Borges’s 1975 short story of that name. For anyone who loves the magical realm of books as much as I do, the Argentine National Library is almost a holy shrine.
Fantastic picture, and a thought-provoking subject!