Stanford, like every university, has many libraries.
Each department has its own, more or less important.
And there are a few others which do not depend on any specific department.
The largest one is the Green library.
It is named after Cecil H. Green (1900 - 2003), who with his wife financed a substantial part of it.
Cecil H. Green was the founder of Texas Instruments.
After having earned a lot of money, like so many Americans he became a philanthropist.
No one, however, calls the building the Green library.
It goes by the name of "Main library".
It contains collections in the humanities, social sciences, area studies, and interdisciplinary topics.
Its stacks rise on six or seven levels. Altogether it houses about 4 million books.
Whenever he had some free time, François would go to the Main library.
Inside, he felt like Jonas in the whale's belly.
In the quietness and dim light of the place, he would spend hours looking at shelves after shelves of covers and titles, reading a few pages here and there, and dreaming about all the knowledge contained therein.
Many classical English novels, but also history books, essays, travelogs, documents, were among his borrowings.
He read Steinbeck, Maugham, Nabokov, McCullers, Mansfield, Percy, Kerouac, Naipaul and dozens more.
He felt almost like a member of the wacky and so endearing Glass family which Salinger wrote about.
He appreciated Woolf, whose subtle style was capable of expressing such delicate feelings. The virtuosity of Joyce in Dubliners reminded him of Proust's.
All these authors left him vivid memories which he kept over the years.
And the suppleness of the English tongue never ceased to amaze him.
Sometimes he picked novels at random, from authors he had never heard of, and chanced on marvels like "A High Wind in Jamaica" by Richard Hughes. It has the power of Conrad, without the excessive exotism peculiar to the Polish author.
The collections of French books had nothing to envy to libraries in France.
In his mother tongue he liked borrowing completely (and deservedly) forgotten books, like those of Édouard Estaunié (1862 - 1942), an engineer become improbable novelist.
Estaunié even accessed in 1926 to the presidency of the "Société des Gens De Lettres" (society of people of literature) in Paris.
This was making François ponder over the transience of tastes, fame, and life.
On another occasion, this time in the Maths library, he borrowed a book on series written by his own great-grandfather.
After Anne, the round and cheerful student working part time at the checkout desk, whom he had befriended, had stamped the borrowing date on the card stuck inside, François looked it up.
The preceding date was 1932.
Libraries are places where time does not separate periods but links them.