The corridors at SDU get dark early too these days. It’s made worse by the full-height windows that line them. All black. Just the imgined outlines of chairs and plant boxes in the same place as ever, and the pocked snow close to the glass where it catches the delirious light seeping out from somewhere. It was thus with a startle that I recognized shapes in the empty passage when I left the office last week, tables where tables not normally are and piled upon them objects. Books. Books, I thought and hope, that the library no longer needed and was leaving for new owners to find.

It is a while since I last came across one of these treasure troves. I gathered quite a haul. Highlights included a study of Thomas Mann, a guide to the literature of Greenland, and three volumes of a history of world literature, all in Danish … how much has changed, I understood, squinting, peering at covers and spines.

Such books are all connected in one way or another with where my academic interests are heading. Each of them a discovery in itself. Time was when that was an unreflected joy, but on this occasion it had an edge of wistfulness. I realized how the moments when I feel that joy seem to have become rarer over time, receding behind the more down to earth preoccupations. What’s the next next short-term contract going to be? Will there be one at all? Will one actually be in a position to pursue all the questions that unfold from those volumes? The mind is adept at ignoring such things, but experiences like this circumvent those efforts with an immediacy that can be quite unsettling – and human.