East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Burn, baby, burn!


By now you’ve all probably heard about the Catholic parish in Poland in which they decided to have a nice book-burning event, making a bonfire of books that teach sorcery and witchcraft. What made the news is the fact that among the books that went up in smoke were both the volumes of the Harry Potter series and the ones from the Twilight saga.

Now call me weird, but I’ve been trying to learn about the other books that were burned. I can see there’s a book by Osho in the photo above, but the others I can’t recognize (you do? Please let me know in the comments! There might be something worth a read in that pile.)
I even ask myself – had the Harry Potter and Twilight books not been featured, would have we heard about this stupid little act of obscurantist rubbish?

And in all honesty, Harry Potter, Twilight and Osho makes three on my list of

Could I care less? No.

And it’s OK if you like ’em, but just for the record, I do not: wrong demographics, wrong target audience.
It’s OK.

What is not OK is burning books because, traditionally, the next step is burning people.
This makes me care even for those books I don’t like: I do not like the Harry Potter books, but still it scares me like hell the fact that some people somewhere in the twenty-first century feel like burning books is a good idea.
It is not.

Admittedly, the event did not pull an oceanic crowd. Hitler was better at this kind of stunts..

Books are machines built to spread ideas.
Whoever burns book is reacting against this – the spreading of ideas.
Any idea but theirs.

And I heard some colleagues jokingly say “Hey, burn mine too!” because if some intolerant crackpot somewhere in the sticks decides your book is worth burning, then you made it. You are popular enough to scare some intolerant crackpot somewhere in the sticks.
I think this is a skewed perception of success, akin to the idea that if they pirate your books it’s because “You made it.”

I want the books to be read.
Not to be stolen – usually to be used as tokens on some websites where you post stolen ebooks you don’t care to build a rep and then ask for someone to steal and give you the books you really are interested in.
Not to be burned.
Maybe to decide that we hate them, but read them.

The last time I was told a book should be burned was in 2012, when I contacted a local venue to try and set up an event for the centenary of Tarzan of the Apes.
Yep, I was told the Tarzan books should be burned.
The reason?
Apparently they are a vehicle of white supremacist, patriarchal ideas. They are violent, obscene and full of sex.
The persons that trashed my proposal and hoped for a nice little Tarzan barbecue gave me a few examples of the aforementioned obscenity, violence and sex – and confirmed my impression they had never read a Tarzan book in their life, and probably had only seen an X-rated parody of some kind. Or maybe John Derek’s Tarzan the Ape Man, while they were stoned.

There’s always a good excuse to post a shot of Bo Derek.

And this is a fact – usually those that burn books have not read them.
Maybe they have heard about them from some third- or fourth-hand source, or maybe they just saw a movie, while they were stoned.
I heard flamethrowers or other forms of censorship invoked for Tarzan, for Robert E. Howard’s Conan books (filled with rape and blasphemy), for shelfloads of comic books, for the handbooks of Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, Toon.

Well, OK, maybe not Toon, unless it was someone going “All roleplaying games are eeevil!”
In not a single case did I find myself facing someone that had even bothered to pick up one of the books they wanted to disappear and actually fucking read it.

So, would I like my books to be burned?
No – because I like spreading ideas, and I’d love to be confronted with issues, to be dabated, to be criticized.
Not simply put in a pile of other unread books because of some distorted word of mouth, of prejudice or of Bo Derek.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

9 thoughts on “Burn, baby, burn!

  1. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’m the kind of guy who always inspects the background in the photos.
    There’s a Feng Shui book, not so interesting. Then the one with the green title: Kuszona (Tempted) by P.C. Cast, a young adult vampire-themed fantasy novel.
    The reddish cover one is “Tajemnice starodawnej medycyny i magii” (Secrets of ancient medicine and magic)
    No, I don’t see nothing worthy in that pile. Maybe I can provide something from a polish author. Like … The Jakub Wędrowycz series by Andrzej Pilipiuk, a humorous occult detective series of short stories about an alcoholic exorcist with titles like “Homo Moonshinicus”, “Mystery of Jack the Reaper” and “Conan the Distiller”
    I have only a question: why burning a kitsch wooden cat statue?


  2. Remind me what century this is again 😳


  3. “People who censor books are usually illiterate.” — John D. MacDonald
    “Do you know why I’ve done this to you? Because you burned Mr. Poe’s books without ever reading them. You took other people’s word that they needed burning.” — Ray Bradbury


  4. The only good reason to burn a book, if any, is to save somebody from dying by exposure. By the way, the paper is a good form of thermal insulation, so it’s better to use the pages to protect the torso. Setting survivalist jokes aside, book burnings are surfacing every now and then in the darkest corners of the so-called first world. The kind of morons that perform this kind of stuff is usually self-appointed defenders of some kind of faith, a role that resembles a small-time cult leader.

    It’s interesting to note that book burnings are a kind of pagan rite. So, we basically have some cult leader who performs acts of paganism. It’s a kind of full circle, isn’t it?


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