When I arrived in Galway exactly six weeks ago, I had three places I needed to go before I went anywhere else: my hotel for a shower, campus for a day of orientations, and Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop.
With a little help from Vinny, I walked out of the shop with a copy of I was a Boy in Belsen, the non-fiction account of one of Ireland’s
two living Holocaust survivors. Tomi Reichental lived in Slovakia until the age of 9, when he and his family were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1944. He survived, and has lived in Dublin for the past 50 years. His story was published by O’Brien Press.
I was a Boy in Belsen was the first book I bought in Galway, and it has been sitting on my shelf for the past six weeks. I kept meaning to read it, but there’s so much to read for my course, that I kept putting it off.
Then I heard that Tomi Reichental would be speaking on campus tonight. Since I didn’t have class today, I spent the whole day on the couch, reading his story. It’s heartbreaking stuff, even though Mr. Reichental and his family were some of the lucky ones – relatively lucky, that is.
He spoke for about an hour and a half tonight, before members of the university’s law society and other curious students. He revisited the story told in his book, but delved into some more thorough examinations of the political situation at the time. He presented a few articles and photos he had come across in his research, which may not have fit into the narrative structure of the book.
I felt a little sheepish asking him to sign my Charlie Byrne’s copy of his book, since he had several copies for sale tonight. He was extremely nice, though; he personalized the inscription and made sure I got one of his customized bookmarks.
I’m glad he came to campus tonight. I’m glad I already had his book on my shelf, and I’m glad his presence on campus motivated me to finally read it.
While I was waiting for his lecture to begin tonight, I logged into my campus email account, which I only do about once a week. I had an email from the library, telling me a book I have checked out has been recalled. I’ve had it for two weeks, and was supposed to have it for another two, but now I have until Monday to bring it back.
I guess if someone requests a book, the library can light a fire under the person who already has it checked out. I suspect the person recalling the book is somehow connected to the class for which I’m reading the book in the first place. Normally, I would be annoyed by this type of academic queue-jumping, but to tell the truth, I’ve been struggling to give the book the attention it deserves, so this deadline may be the motivation I need to finally get around to reading it.