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...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!