Burning Books

Forbes, Clarence A. 1936. Books for the Burning. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 67: 114-125.

It was not many centuries after the first books were made that some writers stirred men's anger to the burning point. The first cause ever alleged for condemning books to the fire was atheism. This wa was in the violet-crowned, glorious city of Athens, in the fifth century B.C. The treatise of Protagoras Περι Θεων began with the famous sentence: "Conrening the gods I am not able to know either that they do not exist or that they do not exist." (Forbes 1936: 117)
Curiously, the justification for burning books is similar in Fahrenheit 451: the whole affair started with books on specific topics stirring the anger of select people (books on cancer angered the smokers, etc.) and ended up with all books being condemned to fire.
The book of Protagoras was only the first of a long line that were burned for religious reasons. Religion has always been the chief cause for the deliberate destruction of books, and the histories of western religion have about them a pungent smell of smoke. (Forbes 1936: 118)
Seems like an apt generalization.
Several of Augustus' successors thought it desirable to exercise an attempted control over men's opinions by burning certain books. The effort to crush political opposition by this means commenced as early as the principate of Tiberius. (Forbes 1936: 123)
That's one way of going about it, although seemingly not a very successful one (the qualifier "attempted").

mutato nomine de te fabula narratur
= with the name changed the story applies to you
(might come in handy in discussing Orwell)

Ritchie, J. M. 1988. The Nazi Book-Burning. The Modern Language Review 83(3): 627-643.

On 10 May 1933 thousands of books were burned in Germany in universities all over the country. Some fifty years later, and under vastly different circumstances, the memory of this act of cultural barbarism is still alive. (Ritchie 1988: 627)
"Cultural barbarism" - noice. Also, the date may become useful when discussing what influenced Ray Bradbury.
As he [Gerhard Sauder] points out in his introduction, burning books is by no means a uniquely German pastime, and he recites briefly the history of such acts, from the Chinese book-burning of 221 BC through Greek and Roman history to the later attempts of the Christian Church to destroy heathen and heretical writings. (Ritchie 1988: 628)
Some of these acts are recounted in detail above in Forbes (1936).
Burning books was early recognized to be a curious way to demonstrate a love of freedom... (Ritchie 1988: 629)
This statement should be considered carefully with respect to the dystopian literature at my disposal, wherein freedom from literature is indeed... a kind of freedom?
The whole purpose of the book-burning was not merely to crush the opposition but to allow a true German phoenix to arise from the ashes, once un-German competition was removed. This never happened. The great flourishing in all the arts which had been such a feature of the Weimar Republic simply came to a halt inside Germany with nothing of the promised rebirth to take its place. Instead the post-1933 period saw a development of the repressive measures already taken before 1933 by the Establishment to curb the new-found freedom. (Ritchie 1988: 632)
Sounds like a true story.
In March 1933 the Anti-War Museum was stormed by the SA and all books, pictures, and pacifist material were totally destroyed. Also in March, the Karl-Liebknecht-Haus, the headquarters of the Communist Party, was forcibly entered by armed police who destroyed its library, which according to published newspapers reports consisted entirely of Communist 'Schund und Schmutz' publications. The same treatmetn was meted out to Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Research, whose internationally-famous collection of unique research material was plundered by students from a College of Physical Education. (Ritchie 1988: 635)
Cultural barbarianism at it's finest.
In Paris a start was made to follow early Prague attempts to rescue the burned and banned books where possible. Where the Nazis had collected books in order to burn them, now books were being collected in order to save them. This particular Sammelaktion culminated with the establishment of a Freedom Library for Burned Books in Paris, a practical and symbolic act which both encouraged banned writers in exile and infuriated the Nazis in Germany. In England similar initiatives were taken by H. G. Wells and others. (Ritchie 1988: 642-643)
Sounds like the part of Fahrenheit that Bradbury wrote for the video game version wherein copies of the burned books are available on microfilm in a specific library.
Press reaction in America was even more hostile and, as Guy Stern has shown, involved not only American authors such as Hemingway and Dos Passos, whose books were consigned to the flames in Germany, but many other famous writers. Newsweek spoke of a 'Holocaust of Books' and Time Magazine of a 'Bibliocaust'. Even though it has to be admitted that the initial impact faded with time, nevertheless Stern stresses that the real horror at the idea of burning books remained buried deep in the American subconscious... (Ritchie 1988: 643)
Catchy! And, indeed, Bradbury's Fahrenheit is an example of the influence on Americans.


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