Skip to content

Book Burning

Fernando Báez has a fixation with books. This comes through in the introduction to A Universal History of the Destruction of Books, his account of the ways books have been destroyed throughout the globe, when he relates an anecdote from his childhood about a flood that destroyed the library in his town, the “object of his curiousity.” “Sometimes, on the nights that followed, I dreamt Stevenson’s Treasure Island sank, while one of Shakespeare’s plays floated,” he writes, continuing, “I never got over that terrible experience.”

In fact, not only did he not get over the loss of the books; it still staggers him. He employs the word “horror” enough times throughout Universal History to clue us in that the loss of books cannot be expressed. Why? Because it is the total loss toward which time passes, the real end of history. This haunts him and (seemingly) consumes him. It’s (again, seemingly) an antipassion.

The catalog of book destruction he has amassed since reflects as much. When he turns his eye to familiar events, what he focuses on can be jarring. His description of historical touchstones like the sinking of the Titanic or the fall of Constantinople is made up of notes on the number of volumes lost, which famous bibliophiles lost their libraries. You get the sense that the loss of texts take precedence over drowning or pillaging—or perhaps you don’t. But there is definitely the sense that he feels the loss of books more than he does that of other facets of history’s nightmare parade.

And this sense, that he is so fixated on books, brings to the fore the almost autistic impulse that motivates Báez to exhaust the possibilities of book destruction. He proceeds: These are the sorts of books; these are the ways each can be destroyed; these have been the ways that those possibilities have been actualized; etc. At times, this makes for the stuff of insight: the prevalence of flood myths in the civilizations of alluvial plains takes on special meaning once you understand how the common medium for the storage of texts, clay tablets, was especially vulnerable to water. Not only did floods destroy crops and displace towns, they disintegrated the medium of cultural memory. That made their waters, perhaps, all the more frightening.

And then there are the moments in book destruction that were so successful, so complete, that you have never heard of them. Like the instance of the destruction of Mayan and Aztec codices. The loss was so total, so totally carried out—by zealous priests and conquistadores—that less than twenty books survived; none of them, as of the edition of Báez’s book I read, were currently housed in Mexico.

Categories: Notes.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comment Feed

13 Responses

  1. Fascinating blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?

    A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog stand out.
    Please let me know where you got your theme. With thanks

  2. obviously like your web site however you have to check the spelling on quite a
    few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling
    issues and I to find it very bothersome to tell the reality nevertheless I will certainly come again again.

  3. Thanks designed ffor sharing such a nice opinion, article
    is fastidious, thats why i have read iit entirely

  4. The advanced and utility services provided by the
    car wash & auto service providers are excellent iin USA.
    Either wax the car yourself afterwards or have it done professionally, and it
    will look neaarly as good as it did when iit came off the showroom floor.
    As the traffic environment and different parking places, waxing timne interval should be different.

  5. Try out the deals above if you can find one that is going to work out the best for you.
    Eitherr wax the car yourself afterwards or have it done professionally, and it
    will look nearly as good as it did when it came off the sbowroom floor.
    Tyres with low pressure ccan lessen fuel efficiency and also can easily begin breaking down.

  6. It can give your car a shield from the damage that strong detergents can give, air pollution and weather.
    • Apply the wax too your ccar in clockwise circular motions.
    Check your car carefully before you pull away for dings,
    leaks, or other damage.

  7. As long as you can place your orders online, and the orders are at
    least $50. As well, most new Reps find that their District Leaders are unhelpful or unavailable.
    Sponsoring new distributors is easy online as well.

  8. You are so interesting! I do not believe I have read anything like this before.
    So wonderful to discover somebody with some original
    thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up.
    This website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

  9. I was pretty pleased to find this site. I want to to thank you for your time for this wonderful
    read!! I definitely really liked every part of it and I have you book marked to check out new things on your blog.

  10. Actual Normal Productions - Video production and movement gralhics firm located in Austin, Texas.

  11. Ayer me pille una barra de sonido nueva en este sitio y estoy pasandolo de lo lindo

  12. I am truly thankful to the owner of this site who has shared this great paragraph
    at here.

  13. I think this is one of thee most vital info for me.

    And i’m glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The site style iis wonderful, the articles
    is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.