Give a Book for Christmas

We enter December. At the far end of the month, Christmas shines hypnotically. The pre-holiday insanity will soon rush over. The citizens, calm until yesterday, will turn into mad buyers. The traders already calculate profits and rub their hands contentedly. Christmas looks more and more like a giant mall, like the Christmas bazaar at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, like the crowded METRO, Billa… Christmas as a professional holiday of the people in trade and retail business. Christmas as a promotion day.       


That is why I will hurry up to announce my small personal campaign. It is not sponsored by anybody, it is not backed up by any institution. It doesn’t involve sending in text messages. Every tenth participant won’t win an automobile or a trip for two to a Turkish resort. It is not part of a promotional package. Let’s call it simply “Give a Book for Christmas”.


Because giving a book as a present is a nice gesture. There is a certain taste and aesthetics in it. There is an ecology of the mind. I don’t know how to explain it. It is not like presenting someone with a deodorant or a car.


Because the book is a very personal gift. Because you give words, you give a story. And, through the book, you say something to the person you give it to.


Because the book is a slow gift, a gift that lasts. You do not use it up, drink it up or spray it up and throw its empty packaging away. (This is also part of the ecology.) To give a book as a Christmas gift is something very special. There is style and retro in it. Because Christmas is made of the books we have read, of the stories we have been told. I remember very clearly “The Little Match Girl” that I received as a child and the hidden tear-drop when I reread it. How would Christmas look like without this story. Or without the “Gifts of the Magi” by O.Henry. Or without Dickens where you can get lost time after time. Or without “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story” by Paul Auster.  


I give this small personal campaign as a gift to all those who already wonder how to avoid giving the same perfume, scarf, jewel as last year’s.


I hope it will be read also by those who open mainly the financial pages, by the bank managers and company bosses. Surprise your employees for Christmas, give them a book as a present. Or add a book to all the office things that you will be giving around the holiday.


When a society is in a long and hard crisis, it first throws away what seems to be unnecessary and useless. Books and culture in general were easily recognized as the unnecessary expense. As something not among the essential commodities, not of vital necessity. It seems to me now that we slowly begin to realize the opposite. Books and culture are of vital necessity for every normal society. I believe that if more people give each other books for Christmas, it will lessen a bit the disenchantment of the holiday. It will reduce the total amount of kitsch and will tone down the hysteria. It will distinguish between those who have a holiday and those who have a shopping day. Because Christmas is not a promotion but a gift and a miracle. And we cannot live without miracles. Especially now, especially here.



Georgi Gospodinov (1968, Bulgaria) is author of books of poetry, fiction, literary and cultural researches. His novel, “Natural Novel,” has been issued six times in Bulgaria and is published in 12 languages including English, French, German, Italian, etc. The Times describes it as “humorous, melancholy and highly idiosyncratic”, according to Guardian, it is “both earthy and intellectual”:

Gospodinov’s projects centered around memory and everyday life in the recent past include “I’ve Lived Socialism. 171 personal stories” (2006, editor) and “Inventory Book of Socialism” (2006, co-author). Georgi Gospodinov is Ph.D. at the Institute for Literature; editor in Literaturen vestnik weekly and columnist in Dnevnik daily.In 2008 he is guest-writer of Berliner Kuenstlerprogramm, DAAD.

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