I attended a guided tour of “An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street”, at The John Rylands Library, Manchester, on the anniversary of the day that al-Mutanabbi Street was attacked by a car bomb (5/3/07). On this street of books and ideas 30 people were killed and more than 100 wounded. (Please see link below for details of the exhibition).
Poet Beau Beausoleil and artist Sarah Bodman had the idea to assemble an “inventory” of books that might have been destroyed in the blast. Artists and poets from around the world contributed to the project to create a monument to the “concept of the endurance of ideas”. The project was self-funded and any surplus monies were donated to Medecins Sans Frontieres. The guides explained that the exhibition is not politically motivated.
One of the “books” that struck me was a letter asking someone to go to al-Mutanabbi Street to buy the letter writer a copy of Vogue. Another “book” was a toy car transporting a scorched page of a book. All the words had been removed from one book, and all that remained was the punctuation. To look at all the books another visit would be necessary.
I walked around the exhibition with a lady called Betty. Afterwards she told me that she’d been bombed out in WWII. I’ve survived a pipe explosion in my kitchen. I remembered again the memorial to a young woman from Invercargill, New Zealand, killed in a London bomb attack. My daughter and I came across this by chance in a London Square last year. My cousin’s daughter lives in Invercargill. How interconnected we all are. No, we cannot know the pain that other families have suffered. But there will be monuments. And we will stop and consider them.