“The smoke rises from the pile of books. They’re picking up armfuls of the volumes loaded on the backs of the carts, and throwing them into the bonfire; a column of fire rises until it licks at the sky, to attract the angels with the smoke of Peter Lombard, Augustine, Tacitus, Caesar, Aristotle…”
(“Q”, Dance of Death, by Luther Bisset, 2000)
“Q” the novel, which was followed by “Manituana”, in 2009, by the same authors (now under the collective pen name of Wu Ming) traces the origins of modern times through the Reformation and the tribulations in Europe of a member of the sect of the Anabaptists. The descriptions of medieval (but this was the 16th century!) tortures, executions and of the auto-dafes are excruciating. The novel consists of plots within plots. What struck me from reading Q and other novels, and of course historical accounts, is the rage to destroy books, from the bonfires of the Spanish Inquisition, the Wartburg Festival, and on to the Nazis’ day of cleansing, in Berlin, in 1933.
Those who are wrong, and who know they are, are enraged by books, as books may tell truths they cannot contemplate.