Jorge Luis Borges once wrote, “Siempre imaginé que el Paraíso sería algún tipo de biblioteca.” [i] I had stumbled upon the quote before, of course, but when I saw the words beautifully written on a handbag at what was going to become my favourite place in Madrid, they just clicked.
That day I realized that my personal little paradise was a charming vintage bookshop/ gallery in the pretty area of Malasana. To make things even better, it turned out that the owners of the place sold homemade coffee and cookies too, and as only true book lovers would know, nothing goes better with the smell of old books and their memories as the scent of freshly-brewed coffee, chocolate and cinnamon.
At first, the bookshop impressed me with its welcoming appearance, which combined flawlessly and magically the colourfulness of the city and its exceptional young spirit. When I entered, however, the place attracted me with its character rather than its looks. Or should I say characters? When I realized there was a shelf dedicated solely to Alice and the Little Prince, I almost cried. All of the editions were beautifully adorned and illustrated. All of them smelled of childhood and memories.
If you get the chance to visit Madrid, definitely roam the streets of Malasana, as it is full of gems like my favourite bookshop. All of the bars and coffee places have a unique voice of their own, and the facades of the buildings have gradually turned into the canvas of talented street artists and original rebels with a good sense of humour, the lost souls of Madrid and, sometimes, its most vulgar ones.
The point is, Malasana is a constellation of personal little paradises. Probably most of them have nothing to do with books per se, but all of them have stories to tell. And this is precisely what Borges suggested.
PS: Yes, I bought the handbag.
Nadezhda from Madrid
[i] “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library”