A Factotum in the Book Trade by Marius Kociejowski - review by Sean O’Brien

Sean O’Brien

Man & Bibliomane

A Factotum in the Book Trade


Biblioasis 360pp £13.99

The poet and travel writer Marius Kociejowski’s account of his employment history suggests that he was fated to work in the book trade because he had exhausted other opportunities for failure. He was a civil servant (forced to resign), a short-order cook, a light bulb warehouseman, a flagpole painter, a freelance gardener and an administrator at the Poetry Society in the 1970s when the place was fought over by zealots (plus ça change) and run by a con man. It was no place for poets, as many of them could tell you, though they couldn’t stay away.

After that, as Kociejowski tells the story, without immediately realising it he was offered a job in a second-hand bookdealer’s shop – at which point he entered a world of gods and monsters where anecdote is the air the inhabitants breathe. He spends a good deal of time giving us to understand that he has moved among ‘characters’, but too often in the early pages we have to take his word for it. The fact that X dislikes Proust is not particularly interesting. An episode in which a little black book of sexual conquests is found to have been left not quite accidentally in the archive of ‘a British philosopher’ feels underdone.

Yet when Kociejowski hits his stride he offers compelling portraits of a range of sacred monsters in the book trade as its decline was taking hold, beginning with Anthony Rota of Bertram Rota. Mr Rota was fierce in defining what his business was. His firm was in the

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