Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine master of short stories, likened the universe to an infinite library, an endless beehive-like space. ‘Twenty bookshelves’, Borges wrote, ‘five to each side, line four of the hexagon’s six sides; the height of the bookshelves, floor to ceiling, is hardly greater than the height of a normal librarian.’

Like all newcomers to Borges’ universe, I found myself flailing, unable to orient myself with the sheer scale of his vision. A visit to Colombo’s second-hand book stores proved to be the ideal tonic.

The shops are located near the roundabout that connects D R Wijewardena Mawatha (McCallum Road) to T B Jayah Mawatha (Darley Road). Sandwiched between the sprawling St Joseph’s College and sky-scraping Lotus Tower, next to garages dedicated to motorbikes and three-wheelers, these quaint single-room spaces won’t be the first image that comes to mind when readers imagine an oasis for reading.

At the end of the bookshop. Though taken inside Premasiri Book Shop, this view is typical of the book shops at their longest (widest?) point. The claustrophobic space immediately insulates readers from the sound of the city outside.

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THE LOST PAGES OF COLOMBO (BLERD.See[d] this. – March 28, 2017)

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