Miguel Ávila’s bookstore is older than … Argentina!

Opposite the oldest church in Buenos Aires, a stone’s throw from the Plaza de Mayo, the political heart of the country. It is difficult to be more rooted in Argentine national history. The privileged situation that Ávila bookstore benefits from is due to its unsurpassed longevity. National Historical Heritage, it was founded in 1785, three decades before the country’s independence.

Just above the front door we see our husband, at the back of the large room on the ground floor. He seems barricaded between his old wooden desk and a shelf flooded with books. Almost everywhere, the characters that classify the references are inscribed in the rules of fileteado porteño, emblematic calligraphy from Buenos Aires that inspires milonga melodies even for the layman.

In Buenos Aires, Miguel Ávila's library is the oldest in Argentina - the good life

When it comes to books, the accumulative drive borders on pathology, and as a good Argentine shaken by psychology, it is this window of reflection, Miguel Ávila, born in 1945, decides to open. “I have known people who have been completely carried away by booksproclaims with great eloquence this man of the theater. Some readers find themselves literally obsessed. By their content and also by the object which invades their living space. »

At the antipodes of Diogenes syndrome, the passionate reader is in perpetual search for rare references and editions. When the passive accumulator piles up everything and everything, the master of a beautiful library performs a geometric materialization of his knowledge. What softens the inconvenience of the accumulation. To glorify the book in all its forms is the task of the bookseller.

Ávila Bookstore, at the beginning of the revolution in Argentina

Created as La Botica, the company originally sold books from Europe. He also supplied the gauchos with liquor, food, and clothing. A few years later, the instigators of the revolution of May 1810, which led to Argentina’s independence, in this same library would form their political thoughts by reading the writings of Robespierre, Montesquieu and Voltaire, all freshly landed from Europe. .

From 1830 it became the Librería del Colegio, with reference to the Colegio nacional de Buenos Aires, this high school a cuadra (block of buildings) away, where the nation’s elite was trained. From floor to ceiling, today works antiguos and modernosas advertised on the facade of Alsina Street.

In Buenos Aires, Miguel Ávila's library is the oldest in Argentina - the good life

There you can find universal literature, Argentine history, Latin American anthropology … A few pieces that are several centuries old (16th century), great works from the colonial era and the first years of independence, unique editions of great contemporary Argentine authors: Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Roberto Arlt, Julio Cortázar.

In total, no less than 150,000 references fill the space, distributed on the ground floor and the basement. The oldest bookstore in Argentina, Ávila is considered by some to be the oldest in the world in operation at its place of origin. Absent from the window, this designation is hidden in the work Booksengulfed by the cabinet behind Miguel.

In this study, the Spanish author Jorge Carrión places it in front of Bertrand, the most famous bookstore in Lisbon, which had to close due to the earthquake of 1755 and changed location several times. that Guinness Book of Records is not of this opinion and Miguel prefers to concentrate on the facts: Basically, I do not care. What is certain is that it is the oldest in Argentina. I’m proud of it. »

Miguel Ávila, at the head of the oldest bookstore in Argentina.

Miguel Ávila, at the head of the oldest bookstore in Argentina. Erica Canepa

Hidden in extremes

A satisfaction based on the last whims of the Librería del Colegio, before the Ávila era, where the smell of old paper was almost driven away by the smell of burgers. Abandoned since 1989, the building was becoming a McDonald’s restaurant. Taken from a patriotism attack Miguel decides to prevent it.

Negotiations began with the owner: the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, then led by Mgr Bergoglio … the current Pope Francis! After two years of paperwork and work, the bookstore finally reopened in 1993. For every reader who wins, Miguel celebrates a great victory. He assesses this himself reading [lui] saved lives “.

A passion that crushed him in his pre-teen years, when the beautiful Marcela, his guardian angel, eighteen years older than he, began to read to him tirelessly. Miserable, by Victor Hugo. Until then, the life of little Miguel, who arrived at the age of 9 from his small provincial village, resembled the life of the children of Four hundred blows, by Truffault.

In Buenos Aires, Miguel Ávila's library is the oldest in Argentina - the good life

The books kept him away from street fights. The booksellers, where he worked all his life, brought him into contact with politicians, intellectuals and writers. Her friendship with Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999) left her lasting memories, such as the day he introduced her to Jorge Luis Borges. Barely greeted, the greatest Argentine writer flies away to get lost in the anthill of the streets of Buenos Aires. The meeting is fleeting, full of magic. The look seems unreal, taken from a bookseller’s narrative, this character from a parallel world striving to escape from reality.

The Avila Library. Adolfo Alsina 500. Tel. +54 11 5357-0909. @libreriadeavila

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