The owner is a gentle bespectacled type; we make conversation and I communicate my phone number in case my inquiry should succeed. Before proceeding to the shelves I take advantage of the main conversation piece in the shop window: Arno Schmidt's "Zettel's Traum", a huge magnificent multi-volume edition in a slipcase, always on display. The book is cryptic; it is a dense universe of allusions, they say, and who knows what else. It is set in multiple colours with incessant call-outs, footnotes upon footnotes, shifting columns, at the first sight an impossible feat for a typesetter. I ask whether the 1334-page book is selling well. "Setzer's Alptraum", I joke. The bookseller smiles feebly and utters an impossible sentence containing the words "often", "always" and "sometimes", then tries to straighten it into comprehensibility, but fails. His features slacken and he says one time it was stolen from the shop window. Who would do such a thing, I ask innocently. He is mustering me, and an eerie feeling tingles in my head. Why, I wonder further, what could you do with such a book? It costs 300 to 400.- on Amazon, an inconclusive thought. It was a hot day, he says. The doors of the shop were open wide. He's rather excited, on the verge of being pathetic. Silly me, he says. At this point I can see myself with my arm bent unnaturally over the beehive-sized book, sweating profusely, it is a hot day, and I try to run stealthily up the hill, past the semi-tramps with their cheap beers, past the exclusive French café offering private wine and cheese tasting parties, onward onto the bridge and over the tracks. I see myself in the mind of the gullible bookshop owner. The French café hadn't been opened yet, when this man, who practically lives in his shop, was arranging books on a high shelf on a hot day, dark underarm circles showing, and a thief approached the door behind him, hesitated briefly and in an awkward motion with a series of silent jerks snatched the luxurious edition, disappeared with it into the heat of the day, and the bookseller lowered his arms and stood still for a while admiring the smart arrangement of paperbacks.
When I looked at the shop window, says the bookseller, I couldn't understand why it seemed so empty. It took me some time to notice. I can see the thief, past the bridge, panting, pulling volumes out of the slipcase, admiring the typography in the shadow of a sick chestnut tree, large curly shadows moving silently back and forth over the shifting columns and the call-outs and the footnotes. Fucking hell, says the thief in my mind, what am I gonna do with this shit. The shop owner looks at me staring at the note with my phone number. He seems perspicacious to the point of disregarding everything I might come up with.
Well, I say indecisively, you have my number. Yes, says the bookseller. I will have a look at the paperbacks now, I say. Yes, he says, please. And the magazines, I say, you have a nice collection of foreign magazines. Please, he says, go ahead. I leave shortly after, walking almost backwards. His back grows in significance. Outside I linger looking at "Zettel's Traum" in the shop window, an obese resentful hunchback of a book far in the back behind a selection of bookshop delicatessen, lovingly, meaningfully arranged, books that can take care of themselves.