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The Lost Library (Paperback)

The Autobiography of a Culture

Westholme Berlin 1945

Imprint: Westholme
Pages: 304
ISBN: 9781594161216
Published: 1st December 2010



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Having inherited his father’s large and varied library, Walter Mehring found solace in the walls of books around him—Cervantes, Keats, Goethe, Aristophanes, Molière, and others. Born in Berlin at the end of the nineteenth century, Mehring, like his father, believed that books and reading were essential to progress, mutual understanding,
and contentment. Himself a published writer, Mehring never envisioned that the culture of books celebrated in his father’s library would be rejected by the sudden rise to prominence of the Nationalist Socialist Party. Soon, even his own books were burned by the new Reich and Mehring was forced to roam Europe as a literary fugitive. From his precarious exile in Vienna, the author arranged for his father’s books to be smuggled out of wartime Berlin.

In The Lost Library: The Autobiography of a Culture, translated by Richard and Clara Winston and presented in paperback for the first time, Mehring takes the reader with him as he thoughtfully unpacks crates of books, and in the process recalls what each book meant to him and his father. Writing with wit and insight, Mehring successfully juxtaposes the humanism of his father’s era with the chaos of Europe, using his father’s library as a metaphor for how the optimism of nineteenth-century progress gave way to the disorder and book-burning of the twentieth.

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