Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tlon Bookshop Closed?

Bit of a shock yesterday when I tried to go to Tlön, the great second hand bookshop in Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre. It was closed with a notice saying that it had been repossessed by the shopping centre landlord St Modwen properties. The same thing happened last year, and it later reopened so hopefully all is not yet lost.

Either way this highlights the precarious position of the shopping centre. Everybody has known for several years that the current centre's days are numbered, with plans to redevelop the whole area. As a result many high street chain stores have stayed away. A beneficial side effect has been that shops and cafes have been able to exist in the centre which would never be able to afford the rent in a similar centre - such as the bookshop and the Latin American cafes that have made Elephant & Castle an unofficial community centre for people from that part of the world.

On the other hand, these places are vulnerable with no idea what the future holds for them and a landlord that has no real interest in the centre other than as a property investment to cash in as part of the regeneration programme. St Modwen Properties PLC were one of two companies bidding to lead on the regeneration of the area, but lost out when Southwark Council selected a rival bid led by Land Lease, so arguably they now have even less interest in the area.

What this also highlights is how local community needs are subject to global economic interests. St Modwen Properties actually owns Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre through Key Property Investments, a joint venture partnership between St Modwen and Salhia Real Estate Co. of Kuwait. Strange to think of a little bookshop being at the mercy of the recycling of petrodollars through property investment, but that appears to be the case.

In the mean time thousands of books are being held hostage behind the closed doors of Tlön - what will be their fate? There were some I meant to buy come pay day, lucky I got my last purchase out just in time. For the record it was 'Redemption and Utopia: Jewish Libertarian Thought in Central Europe: A Study in Elective Affinity' by Michael Löwy - not sure there's anywhere else in South London where you're likely to come across a book like that second hand.

Tlön, incidentally, is the name of an imaginary world in a short story by Jorges Luis Borges.

7 comments:

spincat said...

I hope they do manage to reopen.
I love Elephant and Castle centre at the moment (though this is a sad loss). So many of the boring big stores have left leaving really interesting places to open up - how it could be without the big stores.

Transpontine said...

Went past again today and it was still closed, not looking too good. I used to like the CD shop upstairs too, but that closed a while ago.

bob said...

I like the synchonicity between the two dots above the o of Tlon and the two dots above the o of Lowy, your final purchase. Anyway, that Lowy book is great.

My most recent (final?) purchase there was a beautiful book of John Berger poemsn that I've never seen anywhere else.

Transpontine said...

Yes we must start a campaign for the preservation of umlauts in the new Elephant & Castle.

RUINIST said...

We used to sell that book at 56a Infoshop. I got a copy. It's a great book.

The Tlon emporium is still closed at time of writing. Sad because Merek, the owner, was a really nice local character who was sometimes generous and sometimes not so. But still a nice guy with a nice shop. He opened one up in Chelsea too but could never close the E+C as he intended. In the end he shut the Chelsea one and now this one has been forced out of business. I wonder how long the books will stay locked up like that. That copy of New York DADA in the window is always tempting.

Transpontine said...

Yes I keep walking past and thinking of the books as hostages. Can we spring them free one day?

Pete Morris said...

All the books have now gone. I loved that shop and often used to spend every spare penny there. I started going there 9 years ago and regarded it as one of the few major plus points of living in the area. Shops like that add something special to shopping which the dull multiples take away.
I spoke to a guy who has a stall next to the shop and he said he thought that they had moved to Battersea. I'd travel there willingly but can't find anything about it online. Please post here if you know. Thanks