Whether because of the poor holdings of the library at Saint Louis University’s campus here or just because I had money to spend, I bought more books in the two years I lived in Madrid than at any other time in my life. In spite of some aversion to intellectual life in la vida madrileña, the city has a number of fine bookshops. During a short visit back to Madrid, I passed by three that were especially dear to me when I studied here.
On a side street near the metro station Moncloa, there is a bookshop called Don Libro dedicated exclusively to books about foreign languages. This is probably the only place in Spain that you could get an Evenki grammar or some antique and shoddily reprinted manual of a minor language of India. I fondly remember buying here:
- Andrew L. Sihler’s New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin
- Roger Lass’ Old English: a historical linguistic companion
- Assimil’s L’Occitan sans peine
- Tania Laleva’s Lengua búlgara
A turn towards the east after exiting the metro station Alonso Martínez brings one to Pasajes, a shop specializing in English, French, and Italian literature. Here I bought at least:
- Lawrence Stern’s Tristram Shandy
- Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood in a then-recent Faber & Faber paperback reissue with a very appropriate cover design.
- Yukio Mishima’s 春の雪 Haru no Yuki (Spring Snow) in the English translation by Michael Gallagher.
The bookstore I frequented the most was the Casa del Libro on Gran Vía, the largest bookstore in Madrid. However, while its section for language textbooks and dictionaries is still substantial enough to keep one enthralled for hours, the rest of the store’s stock seems to have been heavily reduced in the last several years. The large amount of Greek and Latin texts is gone, fiction in English and French is half of what it once was, and even many popular categories like travel and computer science are sparse on the shelves. I wonder if this location of Casa del Libro is preparing to close.