Friday, March 6, 2009

The following quotes are from the introduction to one of the most remarkable books I've read in recent years: "A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern Iraq," by Fernanado Baez

"Each destroyed book is a passport to hell." (Page 5)

"Of all of man's instruments, the most astonishing is, without any doubt, the book. The others are extensions of his body. The microscope, the telescope, are extensions of his eyes; the telephone an extension of his voice; then we have the plow and the sword, extensions of his arm. But the book is something else; the book is an extension of memory and imagination." quote from Jorge Luis Borges (pages 10-11).

"It is for this reason, and for others that constitute the central thesis of this essay, that books are not destroyed as physical objects but as links to memory, that is, as one of the axes of identity of a person or community. There is no identity without memory. If we do not remember who we are, we don't know what we are. Over the centuries, we've seen that when a group or nation attempts to subjugate another group or nation, the first thing they do is erase the traces of its memory in order to reconfigure its identity" (Page 12).

"Fire is salvation, and for that reason, almost all religions dedicate fires to their respective divinities. This power to conserve life is also a destructive power. When man destroys with fire, he plays God, master of the fire of life and death. And in this way he identifies with a purifying solar cult and with the great myth of destruction that almost always takes place through fire.
The reason for using fire is obvious: it reduces the spirit of a work to matter. If you burn a man, he is reduced to his four principal elements - carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen; if you burn paper, the atemporal rationality stops being rationality and becomes ashes. There is also a visual element. Anyone who's seen something burned recognizes its undeniably black color. That which is light become dark" (Page 17).

"It's a common error to attribute the destruction of books to ignorant men unaware of their hatred. After twelve years of study, I've concluded that the more cultured a nation or person is, the more willing each is to eliminate books under the pressure of apocalyptic myths. In general biblioclasts (people who destroy books) are well-educated people, cultured, sensitive, perfectionists, painstaking, with unusual intellectual gifts, depressive tendencies, incapable of tolerating criticism, egoists, mythomaniacs, member of the middle and upper classes, with minor traumas in their childhood or youth, with a tendency to belong to institutions that represent constituted power, charismatic, with religious and social hypersensitivity. To all that we would add a tendency to fantasy. In sum, we have to forget the stereotype of the savage book destroyer. Ignorant people are the most innocent" (Page 18).

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