I once got a book from the library that had such a strong smell I couldn’t stand holding it so close to me. It smelled of cigarettes or something. I assumed the person who read it before me was smoking while reading it, and that’s how it got such a smell. It was so strong I couldn’t even read the book, and I had to return it to the library. That was the only book that I ever had a problem with concerning the smell of it. But it did make me wary of library books and I avoid smelling them since then.
Today, however, I couldn’t resist it. I’ve been reading 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, and I got to a part that says:
“Still sitting on the floor, Aomame closed her eyes. She pressed her nose against the pages of the book, inhaling its smells–the smell of the paper, the smell of the ink. She quietly gave herself up to its flow, listening hard for the sound of Tengo’s heart.” (p.546)
After reading that I brought the book closer to me and inhaled its smells. I had to. Then I pressed the open book against my chest and thought of the hands that had touched it before me. I thought of how many people, upon reading the same paragraph, would have brought the book to their noses to smell it. I thought of how many more will do it in the future. I wondered if the book would carry along a smell of me that will mix with the smell of all its readers. A smell no human can smell, but that only books know about.