Book Burning

It’s a sad day here at HSBS after reading this article today. Its about a bookshop in Berkeley California, called Revolution Books targeted by demonstrators. Check out their website – I would certainly shop there (maybe not for romance – though you never know…). This is what they say about themselves:

People come to Revolution Books from all over the world to find the books and the deep engagement with each other about why the world is the way it is and the possibility of a radically different way the world could be. 

The world today, with all its horrors, holds the potential for something far better. To unlock that – at the foundation of RB – is the most advanced scientific theory and leadership for an actual revolution for the emancipation of humanity: the new synthesis of communism brought forward by the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian. 

RB is a bookstore with literature, history, science, art, philosophy, and revolutionary theory….a place of discovery and engagement. Scientific and poetic, wrangling and visionary. A bookstore at the center of a movement for revolution. 

They have been targeted and threatened with burning, and that shocked me. It is utterly abhorrent for any human-being to taunt and threaten bookshop employees with (and I quote) We’re gonna burn down your bookstore, you know that right? 

It is astonishing to me that a nation born out of bloody revolution should think this is acceptable. As an historian, as a book lover, as a human being, the idea of burning books (never mind a bookstore) is absolutely abhorrent to me, but the act has a long and dark history. It is a form of censorship and is seated usually within a political, cultural, or religious context. It is not just the content of books, but also the authors themselves that are opposed.

I have tried to live my life under the philosophy that while I might despise what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it. (I’m talking here about the right to think, not about acting on those thoughts, that is another matter.) The 19th German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine, who wrote this in his 1820 play Almansor :

Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen

Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.

His books were burned by the Nazis.

While we may sit by and think this is about politics, it doesn’t apply to romance novels. Think about it? What if some group decided that all those erotic romance novels should be burned? What if they oppose sex outside marriage? What about LGBTQ romance? In this volatile world of my opinion counts but your’s doesn’t, of gun crime, and knife crime, we are a few steps away from it happening, unless we stand up for our and other people’s right to think as we choose, not as we are told, to read the books that we want. I give the final word to my beloved Dr Who:

Dr Who


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