Book Review: Bibliocidal Maniacs


| July-August 2010

  • A Universal History of Books Image

  • A Universal History of Books Image

As long as people have been writing books, their enemies have been destroying them. Fernando Báez traces the bibliocidal arc of humanity with such thoroughness and matter-of-factness that this ongoing tragedy becomes almost darkly comical. Countless volumes have been lost at sea and perished in accidental fires—and torched in deliberate ones, sometimes by their own authors. In the end, trying to wrap your head around humanity’s lost literary treasures is like attempting to comprehend the size of the universe.

Howard A. Doughty_1
7/15/2010 1:58:56 PM

The offensive against ideas is most obvious in tyrannical societies, whether motivated by religion, nationalism, ideology or merely the authoritarian's desire to maintain power. It is, however, in liberal democracies where the urge to censorship is most insidious. Pastor Martin Niemoller is well known for saying, of Nazi Germany, that: when they came for the Communists, I was not a Communist and did nothing; and when they came for the Jews I was not a Jew and did nothing; ... and then they came for me, there was no one left to speak. Niemoller is less well known for saying that if Fascism comes to North America, it will come on "kitten feet." No jackboots, no "sturm und drang," just quiet, incremental steps -- each one seeming reasonable in itself -- but with cumulative power to dissolve civil liberties. So, when a library removes a book from its shelves because someone objects to it, or from a school curriculum because someone finds it offensive, each instance may seem unimportant, but each one lowers our resolve and ... in time, there may be no one left who cares enough to speak.

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