When I arrived here, one of the pleasant surprises was to discover that the area was punctuated by small bookstores. There are the regular ones, but many of them sell second hand books. There is no rule to find them: they can be in the small street, hidden from the crowds, or they can be wide open in the main boulevard. Most of them put their books out in tables or baskets, not discouraged even by the winter, to lure the occasional passer-by. I counted four or five of these stores around here, and if I look with attention, I could probably find some more.

I always wonder how they survive though, given the rent increases and the ridiculously low prices of the books. There is also not many people coming in and out, and they all look the same. University students, the guy that has an artistic look, the old retired man. When I see them, I imagine that hidden among them there is not some famous South American writer or the next generation's African great poet. All clients look weirdly normal people, and they usually stay hours, browsing those yellowish books, without moving much. It is like they were following a slower, different time.

Nevertheless, the stores are there, happily dispensing conversation about editions, translations and authors. With shelfs are heavily stuffed and plenty of time in their hands to wander among the books, they cumulate epical amounts of detailed literary knowledge. They can talk hours about children books of the twenties, dissident Russian authors, Persian comics or what are the timeless cookbooks. The shopkeepers seem all very old, and I keep thinking that if sit there long enough they see the same books, the same physical objects, come and go, and have sorts of intimate conversations about the old times.

For some years I tended to avoid those shops, as once in, the whole afternoon could disappear from my calendar. But occasionally, when I have the urge to fish the hidden literary pearl, or when I look for that rare gift that I know a friend would appreciate – things like the first edition of “The Octahedron” translated by Julio Cortazar's best friend – I sacrifice my appointments and allow myself to get lost there, leaving this other world following its different, faster clock.

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