|Apropos a Swedish Library on Fire:|
by Anders Andersson
|"We burned copies of Dante and Swift and Marcus Aurelius."|
"Wasn't he a European?"
"Something like that."
"Wasn't he a radical?"
"I never read him."
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
OF ALL THE BOOKS I have read, Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel
"Fahrenheit 451" sits on a shelf of its own in my mental library.
Its main theme, the destruction of written literature by fire,
strikes me as one of the most horrible threats to culture and
history as we know it. In spite of its proven trustworthiness
for the purpose of storing information (demonstrated by vast
collections of centuries-old books), paper appears pretty much
defenseless against the flames of fire. The amount of human
labour that goes into composing a single page of text grossly
outweighs the amount of thermal energy released by burning that
same page, but the ink is of no concern to the flames.|
This weekend (Friday, September 21st, 1996), most of Linkoping city library turned into ashes. Just as in "Fahrenheit 451", the destruction was deliberate. In contrast to the novel, the destruction was not sanctioned by the state. Regardless of the cause, hundreds of thousands of volumes, some of which may have been unique and priceless, no longer exist. Fortunately, a large collection of manuscripts and 17th-century books in the basement appears to have been left untouched by the fire, and is now being brought to safety.
From Svenska Dagbladet September 22nd 1996
To me and to a lot of other people, this is obviously a major
disaster. I have never visited this particular library, as I
live in Uppsala rather than Linkoping, but loss of information
is a loss to all those who came too late to study it, i.e. just
about everyone. To some people, including me, preservation of
information is a duty in itself. We may not find a particular
book, an old issue of a particular newspaper, or the minutes of
a club that no longer exists interesting enough to keep a copy
of it ourselves, but we recognize its potential value to some
future researcher, and thus arrange to preserve it anyway, while
thanking past generations for their generosity towards us.
© Copyright Anders Andersson.
This article was originally written for Project Runeberg's mailing list. There is also a Swedish version.