Os Libros Arden Mal

Books Burn Badly (2010), the latest novel by Galician writer Manuel Rivas, argues that those who destroy written material for political purposes are only one step away from destroying people. 

The novel opens on August 19, 1936, the first year of the Spanish Civil War. Pyres of books were assembled by Fascist soldiers and set ablaze in public. Singed pages float away on a breeze.

The Independent called Os Libros Arden Mal a masterpiece and a tour de force.

Rivas echoes the German writer Heinrich Heine, who wrote (referring to the burning of the Qur'an during the Spanish Inquisition) in his 1821 play "Almansor": Dort, wo man B├╝cher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.

"Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings." 

Throughout history, oppressive regimes have suppressed books first, then humans:  

The destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the Library of Baghdad, the burning of books under China's Qin Dynasty, the destruction of Mayan codices by Spanish conquistadors and the Nazi book burnings all preceded atrocities committed on people. 

"The burning of books publicly and ceremonially is a bizarre subtext of history, repeated constantly. It's an act of violence, a punishment, a deterrent, a death by proxy. To assume this is a futile act, a deluded, empty ritual, to think of it as something that has only happened at other times, to other people, in other places, is wrong. Books were burning thousands of years ago, in other countries, and books are burning, here and now."

Margaret Horsfield from "The Burning Books," presented on CBC Radio's Ideas (1990).

The digital age has allowed paper books a modicum of permanency -- electronic copies are easily distributed and copied -- but it's also made destroying them even easier

A note about the UK cover: it's a mosaic of 36 book covers by Michael Salu.