a book returned to a Helsinki library 84 years late

a book returned to a Helsinki library 84 years late
a book returned to a Helsinki library 84 years late

The book, the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle The refugees, had to be returned no later than December 26, 1939. That is to say one month after the invasion of Finland by the Soviet Union.

A book borrowed in 1939 from a library in Helsinki was returned in May, 84 years late, a librarian in the Finnish capital told AFP on Wednesday. A Finnish translation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The refugees was received on Monday by librarian Heini Strand at the Oodi central library in Helsinki.

“The maturity date for the loan was December 26, 1939”, said Heini Strand, stressing that she had never collected a book so late. The link between the person who returned the book and the person who borrowed it remains unknown. “Usually loans returned decades after the due date are books discovered when people rummage through deceased relatives’ belongings”according to Heini Strand. “People do what they have to do and return the book that is the property of the library”continued Ms. Strand, touched by this behavior.

A deadline one month after the invasion of Finland

A plausible explanation is that the deadline for returning the book fell a month after the Soviet Union invaded Finland in November 1939, according to the librarian. “Returning the book may not have been the first thing on the borrower’s mind as the due date approached”she estimated.

The war fought between Finland and the Soviet Union until March 1940, ending with the signing of a peace treaty which required Finland to make significant territorial cessions. The work is a historical novel set in 17th century France, published in 1893. Conan Doyle is best known for his detective novels whose hero is Sherlock Holmes.

According to the librarian, the establishment could make the work, an edition published in 1925, available to the public because it is in good condition. “The quality of old books is generally much better than that of new ones”she admits.

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