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“The bookshop is, and will always be, the soul of the trade. What happens there does not happen elsewhere. The multifariousness of human nature is more on show there than anywhere else, and I think it’s because of books, what they are, what they release in ourselves, and what they become when we make them magnets to our desires.”

When Marius Kociejowski first submitted the essays that would make up his collection The Pebble Chance (Biblioasis, 2014), publisher Dan Wells read one of the essays, “A Factotum in the Book Trade,” and immediately begged the author to expand it into a full-length memoir of the trade.

A Factotum In The Book Trade

Kociejowski at the time and many times thereafter demurred, and swore that it would be a book he’d never write: he was more interested in writing of other places, other people, and had no further interest in documenting the lives of the booksellers and collectors and characters he’d lived among for decades; in addition, the publication of the essay alone had caused him enough grief within the trade, and he wasn’t at all sure expanding it would be worth the trouble that was certain to follow.

A Factotum In The Book Trade by  Marius Kociejowski on The Table Read

As his near five-decade career in the antiquarian book trade came to a close at the same time that the world went into its first pandemic lockdown, Kociejowski, much to his own surprise, began assembling materials, thoughts, reflections.

A Factotum in the Book Trade is destined to become a classic of the genre, belonging on a short shelf alongside Sylvia Beach, David Magee, David Mason, Larry McMurtry, and a few others, while at the same time being quite unlike any that have come before it. It is a journey between the shelves—and then behind the counter, into the overstuffed basement, and up the spine-stacked attic stairs of your favourite bookshop.

It is a series of fateful bookselling-induced encounters described with such reverence for what a vocation can bring into one’s life. Kociejowski’s lifetime of work as a travel writer is reimagined: in these pages he travels through people as much as he does through books, and the resulting portrait of a life lived among books and the people who covet them is by turns beautiful, beguiling, wistful and wondrous.

Praise For Marius Kociejowski:

“Kociejowski draws on all the aspects of his life in these engaging, idiosyncratic personal essays … [that] proffer the reader equal measures of autobiography, insight and quirky charm.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“Here the charm is deep, the splendour unlaboured; the colours of history, reckoned afresh, saturate singular people, in whom passion is lucid again…here is one who collects his extraordinary resources, and strides.”—Christopher Middleton

“It is a testament to the power of this superb book that I felt not despondency, but … elation.”—Adam Thorpe, Times Literary Supplement

“Treasures are revealed … with a formidable erudition, and at their best they gleam with an enameled splendour.”—Ken Babstock, Globe and Mail

“Kociejowski writes beautifully … unusual, poetic, and thought-provoking.”—Library Journal

About Marius Kociejowski:

Marius Kociejowski, born 1949, is a poet, essayist and travel writer. Among the books he has written are The Street Philosopher and the Holy Fool – A Syrian Journey, now reissued by Eland, and a sequel, The Pigeon Wars of Damascus published by Biblioasis in 2010.

His first collection of poetry, Coast (Greville Press, 1990) was awarded the Cheltenham Prize. His most recent books are God’s Zoo: Artists, Exiles, Londoners (Carcanet, 2014), The Pebble Chance: prose & feuilletons (Biblioasis, 2014), Zoroaster’s Children and other travels (Biblioasis, 2015) and Collected Poems (Carcanet, 2019). He has recently completed another travel book, The Serpent Coiled in Naples.

A Factotum In The Book Trade will be published in the UK on June 5th 2022.

He lives in London, England where, until recently, he worked as an antiquarian bookseller.

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