I recently came across this story in my Facebook feed, an article entitled “‘Parthenon’ made of books built at site of Nazi book burning,” published in a German online news site.
Argentine artist Marta Minujin collected 100,000 copies of 170 different banned books — including Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Bible — and affixed them to a wire sculpture in the exact dimensions of the Parthenon. You can read online here the short list of banned book titles included in the sculpture. The books are wrapped in plastic bags, and the copies will be donated to the public after the temporary art piece is taken down. The sculpture is part of this year’s Documenta art show.
As the article states:
“The work by Argentine artist Marta Minujin is a plea against all forms of censorship.
Minujin, 74, a pop art icon in South America, has described it as “the most political” of her works.
In fact, the “Parthenon of Books” stands at the same site where, in 1933, Nazis set in flames books by Jewish or Marxist writers.”
There are more photos — including a closeup photo showing how the books were attached to the sculpture frames — in the article. You can also read online a bit more backstory about the artwork on the Documenta site and its public call for book donations for the sculpture. And there are lots more photos on this article in the Daily Mail and in this article on the RealClearLife website.
This sculpture, and its emphasis on censorship awareness and having been built on the site of Nazi book-burnings, immediately brought to mind my recent analysis and post on the film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I was reminded particularly of the opening scene of the film that culminates in a neighborhood book burning.
However, it’s interesting to note that one book that IS featured in the film was purposefully left out of the art work: Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Captain Beatty holds this book up as he reveals the reasons behind the society’s book-burning:
We’ve all got to be alike. The only way to be happy is for everyone to be made equal. so, we must burn all the books, Montag. All the books.
The “Parthenon of Books” sculpture will be up for only a short period. Let’s hope its influence and message can be felt for much longer.
- “Call for Book Donations for The Parthenon of Books.” Documenta14, 6 Oct. 2016.
- Fahrenheit 451. Dir. François Truffaut. Perf. Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack. Universal Pictures, 1966.
- Finley, Sarah. “Artist Builds a Stunning Life-Size Replica of the Parthenon Using 100,000 BANNED Books.” The Daily Mail, 23 June 2017.
- Lam, Adrian. “Artist Recreates Parthenon with 100,000 Banned Books.” RealClear Life, 2017.
- “‘Parthenon’ Made of Books Built at Site of Nazi Book Burning.” The Local, 7 June 2017.