“Back in the 1950s in El Salvador, there was only one library in the capital: la Biblioteca Nacional, an imposing wooden structure that took up an entire downtown block. When stepping through the huge double doors, you were enveloped by a distinctive smell: burnished wood, paper, glue, ink – the redolence of stories. Stories shelved high and low along narrow aisles that creaked when you walked along them.
In la Biblioteca Nacional, I’d slip between the stacks for a visit with the characters living between the covers of Las mil y una noches. The book was thick, gold-edged, and richly illuminated. I can still see its magnificent illustrations, all protected by vellum as delicate as dragonfly wings. I had to stand on tiptoe to pull the book off the shelf. I’d plop down, right in the aisle, although the light there was dim. Caught in the spell of stories, I would turn the pages slowly. I never checked the book out. I believed its proper home was the library.”
– Sandra Benitez, from ‘Fire, Wax, Smoke’