Headline, September 12 2021/ ''' '' BURNING THE [ BOOKS ] '' '''


 [ BOOKS ] '' '''

RICHARD OVENDEN'S SPRAWLING - MESMERISING debut : Burning The Books - A History of Knowledge Under Attack, is a masterpiece. It is exactly that.

How often does one come across books written about other books, and the way in which they have served as vessels of insight, wonder and creativity for thinkers, leaders and innovators through the ages -

Where libraries are sanctuaries for centuries' worth invaluable information - and the dire need to preserve and protect them from the tyrants who desire to destroy them, for posterity's sake?

In 238 pages, it squeezes an unforgettable 3,000 year history of Knowledge.

Under Attack. It begins in ancient Mesopotamia with the extirpation of the grandiose royal library of Assyrian King Ashurbanipal, which boasted -

A much treasured cuneiform tablet collection and safeguarded legendary works of literature including the Epic of Gilgamesh; all to be destroyed by the Babylonians in a regime change marked by the Battle of Niveveh [612 BCE].

We then traverse time and arrive in Tudor England during the Reformation, to find John Leland, who, propelled by this new intellectual ferment; is instrumental in the obliteration of monastic libraries, which not only house countless precious incunabula, but were important centres of learning and reading during the Middle Ages.

Ovenden also worries about the present day ''digital deluge'' wherin vast quantities of knowledge are in the grip of an elite group of tech companies such as; Facebook and Google that are free to manipulate and control this information.

Ovenden, who since 2014, serves as a senior most executive at the Bodelian Libraries at Oxford University, first made waves with his 2018 Financial Times article. The Windrush Scandal reminds us of the value of archives. He is furious at the Home Office for burning the landing cards of the ''Windrush generation'' and denying its Caribbean immigrants citizenship rights.

Burning The Books is an extension of this article and who is a better person to write this book then a custodian of one of the world's grandest libraries; someone who is a careful witness to the present and the reverberations of the past that echo through it.

Although Ovenden is diligent in charting the deliberate destruction of knowledge through time, he is most interested in exploring the relationship between knowledge and power.

He illustrates this poignantly by highlighting Germany's devastating Nazi past - especially the 1933 bonfires that annihilated all ''un -German'' books including and especially the ''degenerate literature'' affiliated with the Jewry or homosexuals.

This monumental event heralded Nazi intentions and presaged the dreadful Holocaust in Europe. In the same vein, in 1992, the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo was under assault by the Serbian military using ''incendiary shells'' to ''raise fire on impact'' - with poet even comparing the ash from the books falling on the city like ''blackbirds''.

The point of such devastation, as Ovenden argues, is simply to ''cleanse'' those countries of some aspects of their heritage - in Bosnia's case its Muslim past.

The greatest takeaway from this book is that ever since knowledge has been recorded people have tried to either destroy or control it.

The destruction and removal of government records from Iraq during the second Gulf War is both appalling and shocking as it not only stripped the Iraqis of valuable information and secrets that could have come to their aid, but it now rests in a foreign country, at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, in California.

Ovenden also comments on the demolition of American poet Sylvia Palth's work by her husband Ted Hughes, as a means to guard his reputation.

In is also bit touching to see other librarians and those who came to the defense of books during library conflagrations and plundering, being celebrated as the saviours of knowledge; such as the numerous Muslims, Croats, Jews and Kurds who came to the rescue during the burning of the National and University Bosnia in Herzegovina in 1992.

But having said that, Ovenden also argues that book burning and conquests were not the only way knowledge was lost, neglect was another reason and this is exactly the background behind the disintegration of the glorious Library of Alexandria in Egypt.

In a five point coda, Ovenden proposes that knowledge helps us understand our place in the world, and our roots and where we are headed, thereby corroborating EH Carr's view that history is a dialogue between the past and the present.

He urges - for governments the world over to pour funds into their libraries, into the preservation of their archives in order to protect and be able to celebrate their heritage.

Burning the Books requires a hard chair, a fresh pen and one's full attention as its great subject is quite frankly, something we feel most passionately about : saving books - and a manual on how to do it.

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Great Books and Writing, continues. The World Students Society thanks review author Eman Omar.

With respectful dedication to Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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