Book Burnings


The Island View Book Burnings 

“Nobody gives a f*ck about your f*ckin’ books,” Jess said, as Jim spoke about the joys of his collection and what he intended to do with it. “Believe me, nobody wants those f*ckin’ books.”

Jim didn’t believe her at the time. But she was right.

Once upon a time, Jim had three great web pages. They took years to build and to consolidate. They also enjoyed great popularity and had many visitors. The first was taken down by the people who ran the website, they never told him why. The second became obsolete, almost overnight. Jim couldn’t add to it, and one day, it just wasn’t there anymore. The third one disappeared. Jim lost his voice, his photos, his videos, his feeds, his work and his identity. Planned obsolescence: the touch of a button, a click on the delete key, and great chunks of identities vanished forever. What is it with this world?

The Angel of Death came and knocked on Jim’s door. “All you have I own,” he said. “All this will come to me.”

“Then you can have it now,” Jim replied. Next day, he lay the foundations for a fire in his backyard.

I am ready, Jim thought, I’ll build a bonfire, sit on top like Guy Fawkes, and I’ll burn myself, like a Buddhist Monk, along with all my soon-to-be orphaned and hence unwanted books.

First came Jim’s papers: 53 banker’s boxes of documents, records, and papers he had taken for recycling. Ten seventy-five liter bags of intimate letters, signed papers, early handwritten versions of poems and stories he had fed into the shredder and left out for the garbage men. Nineteen boxes of books he had delivered to the charities who collect such things.

Books: they had fornicated in the dark and overflowed Jim’s shelves with their off-spring. A thousand Jim had given away. Three thousand remained. Jim thought the process was too slow. At the first sign of rain, when the woods were less dry, and would not flame at the slightest spark, Jim decided he would burn them all.

Bureaucrats: they deleted the country’s scholars, they eliminated all the scholarship that did not tally with their crippled and crippling minds, they refused to sanction what their oh-so-limited intelligence couldn’t understand … soon, Jim would wave his magician’s wand and he and his life work would disappear in a single act of academic and cultural suicide.

Jim had already shredded his manuscript copy of Flores de poetas ilustres (1603). Nobody spoke Spanish. Nobody could read the hand-writing. The Flores of 1609 swiftly followed. Jim had copies of five of the six known manuscript versions of the Heráclito Cristiano. Who wanted to read such things? Jim decided to commit them all to the flames along with his autograph copy of the Naples manuscript, the one written by an amanuensis (and who the hell in these days knows what an amanuensis is?) and corrected by the original poet, Quevedo, whose name nobody can now pronounce.

Jim’s sorry to say that these pieces will mirror the fate of the Evora manuscript and those autograph manuscripts from the Biblioteca de Menéndez y Pelayo in Santander that have already gone.

Jim also has copies of all the early manuscripts of Quevedo’s novel, the Buscón, and they too are destined for the flames. Who cares? If people cannot pronounce the author’s name, how can they read the manuscripts of what is probably Quevedo’s greatest work? Written in 1601, published illegally by a bookseller in 1629, targeted by the Spanish Inquisition, his authorship at first denied, then defended by the author … Jim has copies of all that correspondence between poet and priest and Inquisitor, but who now cares? It can all go.

Facsimiles, too, will flare into flame. Who cares? Who now knows what a facsimile is? The ancients buried their warriors with grave gifts of horses and armor, jewels and food … photocopies, facsimiles, microfiches, microfilms, they will all go with Jim to the fire. Jim shall sate the Angel of Death with everything he owns, unless that being stays Jim’s hand or carries him away before he can light the match.

I will grieve.

Does anyone else give a damn?

4 thoughts on “Book Burnings

  1. I will grieve. Goodness, this makes me sad. I remember my father taking all his old files (from his law practice) to the shredder. He was a lawyer for nearly 60 years – practicing still a little in his late 80’s. He said to me, “My world just got a whole lot smaller.” As we carried all of it from his basement to the truck. (His new and active files, of course were preserved in the care of another law firm) But it was a sober day, when he bid his life’s work goodbye. Maybe Jim’s angels will intervene.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My life’s work, indeed … but I cannot take it with me, especially if we commit to downsizing. Imagine nearly 5,000 books in a one bedroom apartment. I find it very sad at times, and then on occasion, I feel relieved and so much lighter in spirit. It’s like an albatross turning into an angel.


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