Parthenon of banned books in Germany

This sculpture emphasizes censorship awareness and is built on the site of Nazi book-burnings

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.

Screenshot of modern 'Parthenon' sculpture article
Screenshot of modern ‘Parthenon’ sculpture article

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.

Fahrenheit 451. First scene” video uploaded by Pablo Fdez Alonso is licensed under a Standard YouTube License

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.

Mein Kampf book in Fahrenheit 451 scene
Mein Kampf book in Fahrenheit 451 scene

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.

Sources used:

Author: Jennifer

Librarian, blogger, movie lover

2 thoughts on “Parthenon of banned books in Germany”

  1. One part of the story that is often missed is that the Nazis never had an official policy of banning books. So far as the law was concerned, it was legal to publish, sell, or read anything you wanted to in Germany from 1933 until 1945.
    The book burning that this work commemorates was a symbolic action, supported by the Party and State, to “demonstrate” that Germans were rejecting “degenerate” literature. It was described as a “spontaneous” action on the part of students.
    This is one of the reasons that ALA defines censorship to include extra-legal, non-state-controlled actions which condemn a particular writer or genre. Suppression of ideas does not only mean legal book banning.

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