Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bókin in Reykjavik

He was a legendary recluse, an enigma who both captivated, shocked, and offended the world. Yet for all his innumerable eccentricities, iron-fisted bull-headedness, and vitriolic assaults against Jews and his own American government, during his last years, Bobby Fischer, managed to find some well-deserved solace in a place one might not expect: sitting in a wooden chair tucked in the back corner of a quiet bookstore in downtown Reykjavik.
Bókin, or The Book, is essentially a 1950s version of New York’s Strand Bookstore. Besides the books stacked head-high, under card tables, and on plywood shelves, the first thing you notice about Bókin is its smell, decayed and airless. Walking inside the 35-year-old establishment is like entering a Parisian flea market without the noise: overwhelming, a paralysis of the senses. But it was here, between narrow aisles lined with thousands of fraying biographies and history books, sitting in an ordinary chair whose varnish had worn thin, where Bobby Fischer could be alone in his thoughts. It was here where he could contemplate his place in history by poring through books on outlaws and rebels from Russia, Britain, Libya, and the Soviet Union with whom he could relate. And it was here, beneath the quiet hum of the fluorescent lights above, where Bobby Fischer could, for at least a few hours a day, seem to live a normal life.(read more)

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