Essay: A Holocaust of Words

The library in Leningrad burned for a night and a day. By the time the fire was out at the National Academy of Sciences, 400,000 books had been incinerated. An additional 3.6 million had been damaged by water. In the weeks since the fire, workmen have been shoveling blackened remains of books into trash bins and hanging the sodden survivors on lines to dry in front of enormous electric fans.

The mind cracks a little in contemplating a holocaust of words. No one died in the fire. And yet whenever books burn, one is haunted by a sense of mourning. For...

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