Somewhat jokingly I said that I wanted the shelves to reflect the great arc of history, not a hodgepodge of regional narratives. In the beginning, this was fine. There was room, narrative room, to arrange the books in something like a chronology to present something like a story – Gilgamesh cozying up to the Presocratics – yielding the impression of lights turning on, one-by-one, through the windows of apartments on different city blocks, or the gradual appearance of different planets, stars, and constellations as dusk settles into night.
Byzantium appears to be the sticking point, perhaps because of the appearance of continuity, of duration, perhaps because it marks a point in the chronology where other interests come into play, where the Mongols and the Armenians have to find a way to sit comfortably next to each other on the shelf with their different legacies and timelines, and somehow the Georgians are there too and where do the Venetians fit in? (And there’s a history on the T’ang and a book of Korean chronicles that somehow need to slip in near the seventh and twelfth centuries, respectively.)
It is perhaps as well to acknowledge that the library will never be unpacked, that it might not even be a library at all, but simply a temporary gathering of books resting on their journey someplace else. They are all on shelves for the moment, though, and now there’s even room for a few more.