About the Book
The Ensenada Public Library tells two stories. The primary one is about four librarians, one who is a spy, working in an American library across the border in Baja. Like all public libraries around the globe, they are tasked with somehow managing the hundreds of thousands of new books published every year. They struggle to maintain reading space in their beloved building; they struggle to preserve the act of reading in a US culture more concerned with the act of publishing. Like inversions of the fireman in Fahrenheit 451, they burn thousands of books per week in order to protect the integrity of literature, the virtue of ink on paper.
The second narrative inhabits the first. It exists in a strange novel that somehow keeps escaping the burn chute and is secretly read by all four librarians. It follows the adventures of a Mexican archivist named Equisa who, in a speculative world where reading has collapsed, smuggles a corner scrap of paper from Michoacán to Baja. She hopes to bring the scrap, perhaps the only remaining piece of ink on paper left in the world, back to her lab where she believes, working backward from just this single fragment, she can reconstruct the entire novel—the last book on paper. But first she must make her way across a hostile landscape, through a global culture that seeks to consume all material.
The two narratives parallel one another, both using very different perspectives to explore the future of books and reading in a worldwide culture that burns through everything.
What Readers Are Saying
The Ensenada Public Library is a book about books—burned, lost, waterlogged, treasured, shelved, hoarded, contraband. The library’s ordered world of ink and paper is set in vivid contrast to the Sea of Cortez's blowing sand and seawater, high cliffs, tequila and lime juice, the slap of wave against surfboard. David Bajo's taut, gorgeous prose is suffused with a lush nostalgia that shades into futuristic foreboding, a story within the story that contains a deft warning. This is a startlingly original, beautiful novel. —Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of The Great Man and The Last Cruise
Like its namesake, Ensenada Public Library is redolent with the rumor of many books: one catches hints of Calvino, of Russell Hoban, of Ray Bradbury mingling in its restless airs. But in its border-country wonder and melancholy, with smoky colonias and sounding whales on the horizon, it casts a spell all its own. David Bajo's novel is a nocturne, lit with showers of furnace sparks and moonlight on the breaking waves—or are those pages turning? David Bajo's librarians, in their yearning and resolve, know that even as the book of the world nears its final pages the story is still being written, the ink never dry. —Matthew Battles, author of Library: An Unquiet History and The Sovereignties of Invention
A surreal and haunting elegy on the printed book, The Ensenada Public Library tunnels deep into the psychology of reading, unfurling stories within stories—burned and fragmented, erased and reconstructed, imbibed with tea in the depths of apocalyptic caves. Bajo’s dazzling meditation on the uncanny power of the written word is a must-read for book lovers in the digital age. —Julia Liz Elliot, author of The New and Improved Romie Futch and The Wilds