The lost library

lost library(Photo credit: Westholme Publishing. Image above shows an old wooden library card catalogue drawer with the title of the book, The lost library, and the author’s name, Walter Mehring, written on the drawer)

Born in Berlin at the end of the nineteenth century, Walter Mehring inherited both his father’s respect for the power of literature and his formidable library of thousands of books. Like his father, Walter believed that books and reading were essential to progress, mutual understanding, and contentment.

After having served in World War I, Mehring spent the years between the world wars as part of Europe’s avant-garde coffeehouse culture; he was a poet, cabaret lyricist, and founder of the Dadaist movement in Berlin.

But with the rise of fascism, Europe became a dangerous place for free-thinking artists and Mehring was forced to leave Berlin and roam Europe as a literary fugitive.

Mehring never envisioned that the culture of books celebrated in his father’s library would be rejected by the rise to prominence of the Nationalist Socialist Party.

From a precarious exile in Vienna, he arranged for his father’s books to be smuggled out of Germany, but their fate would be worse than his–while Mehring managed to slip out of Austria and avoid capture, his library was confiscated and destroyed by the Nazis in 1938.

In The Lost Library: The Autobiography of a Culture, Mehring takes the reader with him as he unpacks the crates of books in his mind, and in the process recalls what each book meant to him and his father.

Writing with great insight, Mehring successfully compares the humanism of his father’s era with the chaos of Europe at war, using his father’s library as a metaphor for how the optimism of nineteenth-century progress gave way to the disorder and book-burning of the twentieth.

You can find further details of The lost library on the main catalogue, available in ‘Catalogues’ on the Library’s website.