5 / 5 / 5


The rules are simple. I ask someone brilliant to go to their bookshelves, count 5 shelves up, 5 books in from the left, and answer 5 questions. Charles Trueheart, Director of the American Library in Paris,  plays along.

1. What's the book?

The File by Timothy Garton Ash.

2. What's it about?

The book is a memoir written by Garton Ash, a journalist who spent many years reporting in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, where the government agency assigned to spy on its own citizens, the Stasi, kept a close eye on him. After the collapse of the Wall, Garton Ash was able to go into the agency's records and examine the file they were keeping on him.

3. What memories do you associate with it?

I wouldn't have been able to answer this question if it weren't for the fact that I always note the city and date of where I begin reading a book on the book's title page. I see here that I began this one in Oslo in September of 1997.  I remember I was there as a journalist [Trueheart's long-time profession] covering a conference on banning land mines for the Washington Post.

4. Where did you get it?

Brentano's in Paris. It was 180 francs.

5. What kind of shelves does it rest on?

The File sits on a 7-shelf high cherrywood bookcase, one in a row of 4 cases. The shelves are organized alphabetically by author within sections by subject, and Garton Ash's books nearly begin my non-fiction section (right after James Agee). I should probably shelve it under G not A, but...

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