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Javier Martín has been running Julian's Books in Fuengirola since the American's death in 1991. L. Cádiz
Julian's Books in Fuengirola, founded by an American journalist, closes after 58 years
History

Julian's Books in Fuengirola, founded by an American journalist, closes after 58 years

With thousands of second-hand books in up to 11 languages lining the shelves, this unique and historic business will lower the shutters for the last time on Saturday

Lorena Cádiz

Fuengirola

Friday, 28 June 2024, 14:18

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In 1966, the twists and turns of a busy life led Julian Jacobson to seek refuge on the Costa del Sol. A New Yorker by birth and a journalist by profession, he had worked both in the United States and Paris and had been a member of the editorial teams at the New York Times and the Herald Tribune. Part of his story came to light through the people of Fuengirola who got to know him over the quarter of a century that he lived there. Some of it is also known thanks to interviews he gave to the media at the time.

It’s known that Julian was very fond of gambling and the good life. A run of bad luck forced him to leave France and he first travelled to Mallorca, before ending up in Fuengirola. He acquired a job lot of books at a good price and rented a shop at 11 Calle España, where he started selling second-hand books, mostly in English. In the mid-60s, the business was quite an oddity for the locals in Fuengirola, who were not used to such enterprises.

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Javier Martín Molina was a child when Jacobson opened Julian’s Books. He was nine years old at the time and looked on with a mixture of admiration and amazement at the business that the American had set up in the premises owned by his father.

He could not have imagined that years later, when the American died in 1991, he would be the one to take over the reins of the bookshop. By then, Javier had a degree in geography and history and was working at the land registry office on temporary contracts. Meanwhile the bookshop had gradually become a must-visit place for book lovers from all over.

“I had to take classes in English, I brushed up on my French, reading books and listening to the radio, and I even learned the Russian Cyrillic alphabet so as not to be completely in the dark when selling a book,” says Javier, who proudly explains that his bookshop sells second-hand copies in 11 different languages. What he doesn’t know is how many books Julian’s Books holds in total. They are piled up in every corner of a shop that feels cramped because of the sheer number of books that fill it. There are several thousand, surely.

Some have made their way there because cleaners and hotel workers along the coast find them after tourists have left and know that Javier always takes them. Others are brought in by the visitors themselves, who after spending some time in the area, return to their country, but do not want to carry so much weight. There are also donations from the deceased.

“A few months ago we received many boxes from a customer of ours who had passed away.” With patience, real treasures can be found on the shelves of this bookshop in almost any language, at prices that are almost symbolic.

Sadly, however, Julian’s Books is closing its doors after 58 years and Fuengirola is saying goodbye to a piece of its history. Javier is now 67, in poor health, and has been struggling to pay the bills for months because the business is not profitable. Even so, he would have kept going if it were not for an inspection that put him in a predicament.

“They told me the shop doesn’t meet requirements and that I have to do work I can’t afford and don’t want to do at 67,” he explains. “Books are my life, but not enough to cost me my health.”

This Saturday, 29 June, will be the last time that Julian’s Books opens its doors to the public. For the moment Javier says that he doesn’t want to think about the future of all the books on the shelves, or of the shop itself. “This is all very painful for me and I want to take it slowly,” he says.

Farewells

For days now, people have been coming in and out of the shop, some in search of last-minute literature and others simply to say goodbye to Javier. There are long-time customers, some of them children or grandchildren of former customers of this bookshop. They all want to say goodbye in person to Javier and in some way honour the memory of Julian and all the thousands of stories that are still contained within the walls of his shop.

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