“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.”
“There, where they burn books, they will finally also burn people.”
- Heinrich Heine, from his play Almansor (1821)
This quote from the German playwright and poet refers to the time of the reconquest of Spain from the Moors and when copies of the Koran were burned in the marketplace.
Still today there are many people who would want books removed from public libraries or not published at all. These people fear that, if other people are allowed to judge for themselves, they won’t draw the “right” conclusions, and this might threaten the status quo.
Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual American Library Association event reminds Americans not to take the precious democratic freedom to read what you want for granted.
Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.
There’s a Russian proverb that says “Everything is discovered in its own proper time.” While writing this article, I came across a new book in the Dublin Library, entitled “A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: from Ancient Sumer to Modern Iraq” by Fernando Baez. This work, the result of twelve years of research, details the history of book suppression from 4100 B.C. (as the result of warfare between Sumerian city states) to the looting of the National Library of Iraq in Baghdad by uncontrolled mobs in April 2003, while American occupation troops looked on. In between these two dates, books were destroyed in ancient Greece, China, Rome, Constantinople, in the Islamic World, during the conquest of the New World, during the Reformation and Renaissance, and in the Twentieth Century in fascist and communist countries.
As a lover of books, a student of many languages, and as a librarian, I believe that exposure of many ideas – including ideas one may not agree with – is vital to ones ability to make intelligent decisions in life.
Dublin Library has set up a display near the Large Type book collection to celebrate Banned Books Week. Please help yourself to a brochure listing the most commonly challenged or banned books and feel free to borrow one or more of them, as well!