The Lolas Atomica creative duo, Marko Štrok and Ivona Komorčec, made a decision three weeks ago to start the Free bookstore project in Zagreb’s Prečko area. The purpose of the project was to make people more aware of the beauty of books and the written word.
Bookstores are often a haven for the ones who wish to live another life through reading, a place where young people can find the peace and quiet to study, the space whose walls have soaked up the scent of books. Those very walls make up the book shelves that live forever, but a somewhat different bookstore sprang to life in Zagreb’s Prečko area. The Lolas Atomica creative duo, Marko Štrok and Ivona Komorčec, made a decision three weeks ago to start the Free bookstore project at 1 Jarnovićeva street. The purpose of the project was to make people more aware of the beauty of books and the written word on paper because there are more and more estimates that books will die out. Here, on the Jasam.hr portal, they will be discussing whether their idea was successfully realized.
How long did it take you to realize the Free bookstore project? How did you come up with the idea?
We saw something similar on the internet, on various portals and in different parts of the world, especially in England and America. That’s when we thought: Why wouldn’t we do something like that here, especially since Marko is a bookstore owner.
What was the purpose of the Free bookstore?
The purpose is for the idea and the project realization to spread out, for the people to leave their books, take somebody else’s and create a sense of community.
Who’s behind the project?
The Free bookstore project was initiated by the two of us only, as well as Marko’s late grandfather.
Is there an initiative to set up the Free bookstore in other parts of Zagreb as well or will the project be limited to Prečko only?
So far there have been no suggestions to do so, although most of the people praised the project and gave it oral support. We would love it if somebody started such an initiative, but we’ll also try to organize something with the help of the people living in other parts of the city.
Are the reactions to the bookstore mostly positive or…?
Yes, they are very positive. Children often come, and they like the project. The neighbors comment that the idea is great. We get fresh books every day. The bookstore has been working for three weeks already, and if it’s survived this long, hopefully it will keep on living.
There was an attempt at a similar project in Belgrade city center, but in the form of an improvised stall that was supposed to be a “public library”. However, the idea fell through since the place was empty. Are you afraid that something like that might happen to your bookstore?
Honestly, we thought that all kinds of things would happen to the bookstore, we were ready for anything – that we would find it destroyed, that somebody would take the books and sell them or something, and so on. But, luckily, none of those things happened. I guess there are honest and interested people around us, since they keep bringing books, and some of them even leave us little notes with their reactions.
What are the most common genres in the bookstore?
You can find absolutely everything: from foreign books, novels, cookbooks to business references.
Have you thought about placing chairs or benches at the ends of the book shelf?
Yes, we thought about that, but we have to check with the utility company people if such a thing is even possible because that would be trespassing the public space, though trespassing the public space is the purpose of the bookstore. People here usually know each other and the idea is for them to get to know each other even better and bond even further through reading and the Free bookstore.
Who are the most frequent visitors to the bookstore – children, young people or the elderly?
The books we offer are mostly books for adult audiences, but we also have children coming, thrilled with the idea.
What are books for you?
For us, books are life and we can’t imagine our lives without reading. That’s why we set up this bookstore – to make it possible for others to exchange books and come to love reading.
You can follow the ideas of the Lolas Atomica creative duo on Facebook. And remember to visit the Free bookstore because, as Croatian poet Tin Ujević said, a book is not food, but it is a dessert.
This interview was originally published in Croatian on jasam.hr.