Here's Saul Abramsky's account of his grandfather's house of books a house of books.
A little over 30 years ago, a family friend of my mother's came from Los Angeles to visit us in London, and was taken to see my grandparents' house near Hampstead Heath. An artist, he immortalised that evening with a black and white ink drawing. Titled Chimen Abramsky's House of Books, it showed a house the walls of which consisted entirely of books; the occupants sat around cluttered tables in old chairs drinking endless cups of coffee or tea while engaged in animated conversation.Books, tea, coffee, cake, biscuits and conversation makes for a damn good afternoon.
Every single room of the house, except the bathroom and kitchen, was, indeed, lined floor to ceiling with books. And when the shelves were filled, the floors succumbed to great, twisting piles of paperbacks and hardbacks. To me, growing up, this house was my school, my library and my sanctuary when things got tough at home. My grandfather had been a bookseller in the East End from 1940 until the mid-1960s, an antiquarian, an academic – self-made, without even a completed degree. He had been studying history in Jerusalem in 1939, had come to London to visit his parents, and had been stranded by the outbreak of war; he never returned to his undergraduate studies. But he was soon corresponding with many of the world's leading intellects, sometimes writing as many as 10 letters a day.
To that extraordinary place traipsed generations of scholars and rabbis, politicians, refugees, artists, students.