26th February 2016
In any age, you only have to look at the highest buildings in a city to see what is most important to the people: for the better part of the last two thousand years, it was churches. If you walk around the big cities nowadays you come across these old icons of the past squeezed in between mammoth buildings built to the new god of trade and commerce.
Similarly, you can tell a lot about a culture's values by looking at the things it has burned in a ritual fashion. Religious icons have always been consigned to the flame by invading armies; smash and burn was the MO of the Crusades; a bit later in history, religious leaders turned holy fire on women. Books have always been an easy target: the Spanish Inquisition burned 5,000 hand-written manuscripts. The Nazi's burned over 40,000.
The books the Inquisition burned were from a different religion; the books burned in the modern era are not necessarily religious, but they are still holy.
Here's a short list of some authors whose books have been burned: Heinrich Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Ernest Hemingway, DH Lawrence, Jack London, Thomas Mann, Emile Zola, Nikos Kazantzakis, Salmon Rushdie, JK Rowling, Dan Brown....to name a few.
They are holy because they are reaching for the truth, and as a species this is the most sacred thing we do. This is what was in play at the genesis of most religions. And this is what is also going on when the writer picks up his or her pen,
As John Milton wrote, "Anyone who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself."