“I thought to myself, What if I could read the stories in the books without knowing how to read? The idea of a library started in Gokarna, after I was gifted Gita Mehta’s book with a Lotus as it’s cover. I asked the person who gave it me, to describe the story and that changed my life. I have never looked back since.”
“This notice board is 25 years old. An English woman wrote this for me in exchange of a book from my library.”
“I’ve struggled to keep this collection safe. From people, from conservative religious views, from floods and God knows what… I lost a lot of good German literature to the floods last year.”
“How do you say it? Yes, hunger. That’s the word I’m looking for. It’s the hunger for not knowing how to read or write that drove me to books. It’s the hunger for stories that made me obsess over the printed paper that I don’t understand. Whenever I’m tensed, I come to the library, scroll through all the books and remember the people who gave them to me and the stories they described. It’s my favourite place in the world.”
“This is one of the first prints of Ian Fleming’s hardbound edition of Goldfinger. What a story eh?”
“Personally, Pablo Cohelo’s Eleven Minutes literally changed my life. I remember, this beautiful girl, Claudia gave me that book. The story of my relationship with her is almost parallel to the book she read to me. You know what I’m saying right? I’ve met, made friends and some, more than just ‘friends’ from around the world because of this travelling, travellers’ library. French have the best authors by the way! The stories people have read to me from these books… Beautiful! Beautiful! You can find Spanish and Hebrew books here too.”
“Look at this publisher, these guys always publish great stories! People ask me how I differentiate between English and German. Do you know how? German language has two dots on top of the letters ‘u’ and ‘o.’ I guess..”
“I don’t know the names of the authors. I know the covers of their books. I know the stories in their books. But trust me, you will not be able to cheat me by giving me bad books. I know the publishing house symbols that publish good and bad stories. I might not know the name of the authors, but I know the names of the people who read the stories in these books to me. Their names matter more in my life.”
“This library with the books and memories that come with it, is the treasure I’m building for my children. To remind them about the world they can explore with the power of alphabets. All these books, not only remind me of what I have lost in my life but also of what I have gained and what I’m grateful for.”
His 600 books, seem more of a collection of his life stories and the people he has met along the way. I can’t help but to see that his passion for books is really the passion for people and their stories. Driven by turning bound pages into flesh and heart.
For some, the world is full of limitations. And for some, like Latif Oata, the world is full of possibilities. It is filled with 7 billion stories.
“A man can do whatever he puts his mind to. Sometimes, I get startled as to how I can run a library without knowing how to read, but I’ve shown that it is possible by asking myself, ‘what if…” – The Unlikely Librarian