Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Louvain: "They Burned the Books"

One of the benchmarks of book burning in wartime propaganda was Stephen Vincent Bénet's enormously popular radioplay, They Burned the Books. Commissioned by the Council on Books in Wartime, and first performed in 1942, it became a staple of anti-Nazi popular expression, particularly on the tenth anniversary of the first major Nazi bookfires in 1943.
It had a contemporary release as a small booklet, but this image comes from a collected edition of Bénet's work, We Stand United of 1945. Although no caption is given, it is interesting to note that the image is evidently meant to represent the new library at Louvain, rebuilt and opened in 1928, in flames.


Barbara Martin said...

The thought of burning books brings to mind Fahrenheit 451, and with it the control of the population's mindset.

Very interesting concept you have for your book. I'll be looking fot it.

Matthew Fishburn said...

Barbara -
Hello, and thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree that Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is easily one of the most important books to take up the theme of book burning: I'm particularly fond of Truffaut's film version.