A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
"UNIVERSAL HISTORY OF THE DESTRUCTION OF BOOKS" BY FERNANDO BAEZ
Reading Baez's "Univeral History..." and coming upon many oh so many interesting tidbits, anecdotes, and unadulterated fact. The impetus for Baez's book is to share the destruction of libraries as he has experienced them. In the introduction, for example, we learn that the first library he ever used washed away when the Oronico River in Venezuela. Then, Baez tells us that he was there in the late 90's when they destroyed the library in Sarajevo. And, he starts with the wholesale destruction of the Iraqi National Library and museum infrastructure. In fact, Baez has written another book on that topic called "The Cultural Destruction of Iraq."
It is clear that Baez has thought a lot about his subject. His introduction is also populated by his ideas about the people who destroy libraries, "Those who destroy books and libraries know what they are doing. Their objective has always been clear: intimidate, erase motivation, demoralize, enhance historical oblivion, diminish resistance, and above all, foment doubt." And Baez clearly wants to shy away from the image of book burners as illiterate and inbred, "It's a common error to attribute the destruction of books to ignorant men unaware of their hatred...In general, biblioclasts are well educated people, cultured, sensitive, perfectionists, painstaking, with unusual intellectual gifts, depressive tendencies, incapable of tolerating criticism, egoists, mythomaniacs, members of the upper or middle classes, with minor traumas in their childhood or youth, with a tendency to belong to institutions that represent constituted power, charismatic, with religious and social hypersensitivity." Clearly, Baez has done his homework.
I am just getting into it, but there is just some stuff I really need to geek out about. For example, "The scribes, a caste of hardworking palace fuctionaries, prayed to Nidaba before and after writing. They transmitted the secrets of the signs through a secondary religion, practiced magic, and endured a long apprenticeship. They knew by heart the flora, fauna, and geography of their time, along with mathematics and astronomy" Which jives nicely with my ideas on reading and literacy. I really like Baez's introduction because it is erudite but not pretentious; it is above pretention, it dictates and you listen.
Baez writes of something that Borges said about books, "Of all man's instruments, the most astonishing is, without any doubt, the book. The other are extensions of his body. The microscope, the telescope, are extensions of his eyes...But the book is something else: the book is an extension of memory and imagination" If this is true, and humans developed writing just a few thousand years ago then almost all of human history is an unwritten odyssey.