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The United States Government Prohibits Fernando Báez from Visiting the U.S. in Order to Introduce His Book, A Universal History of the Destruction of Books


Translated by  Machetera

Caracas, Sept. 24, ABN. - The Director General of the National Library of Venezuela, Fernando Báez, denounced the refusal of the United States government to allow him to visit that country, in order to present his work "A Universal History of the Destruction of Books," whose first English edition was published two weeks ago in New York by Atlas & Co.

Báez pointed out the double standards of the U.S. State Department, in its condemnation of other countries for their supposed violations of human rights, while at the same it censors works by certain writers whose interests are not in line with that of the George W. Bush administration.

In this sense, he indicated that sources at the Atlas & Co. publishing house had informed him of certain intimidations to which the company had been subjected by U.S. authorities, who have threatened sanctions in the form of taxes and other mechanisms for publishing his work.

He also indicated that these pressures had been put on certain book distributors in order to impede its circulation in the North American marketplace.

He stressed that he had received the solidarity of U.S. librarians, who by email have shown their support and willingness to look for alternatives that might allow them to overcome the obstacles placed by the U.S. executive branch.

The writer also indicated his willingness to look toward international human rights law in order to denounce the abnormal situation.

"A Universal History of the Destruction of Books" has been translated into 13 languages since its original publication in 2004. It has been praised by such distinguished figures as Alberto Manguel, Noam Chomsky and Humberto Eco, among others.  The part dedicated to the "bibliocaust" taking place in Iraq, as a result of the invasion ordered by President Bush, is of particular current interest.

The work published by Atlas & Co. is an enlarged edition with a printing of 100,000 copies; modest by North American market standards.  It contains a postscript by Báez for U.S. readers, whom he calls to go beyond the dichotomy between the "good" and the "bad" when it comes to the study of international relations.

The English version was translated by Alfred MacAdam, a U.S. professor of Latin American literature and renowned translator of the works of Alejo Carpentier, Reinaldo Arenas, Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa and José Donoso, among other great figures.  MacAdam is known for only working with works that appeal to him. 


A Universal History of the Destruction of Books

From Ancient Sumer to Modern-day Iraq

by Fernando Báez

“Impressive. . . The best book written on this subject.” —Noam Chomsky

A product of ten years of research and support from leading American and European universities, A Universal History of the Destruction of Books traces a tragic story: the smashed tablets of ancient Sumer, the widespread looting of libraries in post-war Iraq, the leveling of the Library of Alexandria, book burnings by Crusaders and Nazis, and suppressive censorship against authors past and present.

With diligence and grace, Báez mounts a compelling investigation into the motives behind the destruction of books, reading man’s violence against writing as a perverse anti-creation. “By destroying,” Báez argues, “man ratifies this ritual of permanence, purification and consecration; by destroying, man brings to the surface a behavior originating in the depth of his personality.” His findings ultimately attest to the lasting power of books as the great human repository of knowledge and memory, fragile yet vital bulwarks against the intransigence and barbarity of every age.

“[A] horrific chronicle of the centuries-long assault on human memory. . . . A sobering reminder of just how deep-seated is the instinct to destroy other people’s truths.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Marvelously informative." —Publishers Weekly

“A terrifying, masterly book from the erudite pen of Fernando Báez.” —Alberto Manguel

  • Hardcover, $25.00, 272 pages, 5" x 7 1/8", 29 black and white illustrations, plus 1 map
  • ISBN: 978-1-934633-01-4

Buy This Book

About the Author

As an undergraduate, Fernando Baez (San Felix de Guayana, Venezuela) began his career studying greek philosophy, with a special focus on Aristotle, ancient Aristotelism, and Averroes. He had among his mentors the late Jose Manuel Briceño Guerrero, a latinoamerican philosopher, and Pedro Rincon Gutierrez, a venezuelan expert in education, as well as Miroslav Marcovich in USA.
The first phase of his academic career culminated with a BA in Education (summa cum laude) in 1996. His publications in all these years includes Reflexiones (Non fiction chronicles, 1991), Alejado (Poems, 1993, currently out of print); and one book on the Byzantine manuscript Tractatus Coislinianus (2000, greek and spanish).
During his subsequent career, Fernando Baez maintained a constant interest, albeit while focusing on other areas of scholarship, in the poetry, arabic philosophy, ancient and modern censorship, writing and cultural heritages and its connection to ethnic memory. Fernando Baez published a collection of his essays on censorship, La ortodoxia de los herejes (2002), providing a synthetic view of his understanding of some modern latinoamerican attempts to construct a coherent theory about censorship in the XX century. He published new poems in Todo el sol de las sombras (2002).
After the publication of this book, Baez devoted much of his work to Aristotle. In 2002, he edited, for the first time in spanish translation, Los fragmentos de Aristoteles; and in 2003 he edited Poetica de Aristoteles, in greek, latin and spanish.


In 1999, Fernando Baez was admitted as a graduate student in Bibliotecology, in a postgraduate school in Cultural Heritage. He was awarded the “Vintila Horia” Prize for Essays for his study of the history of the library of Alexandria in 2003.
From his early greek interests he moved to Cultural Destruction and Cultural Studies, writing his dissertation, in A universal history of destruction of books (defended February 2002), which documents the catastrophic loss of books during wars, like the Library of Alexandria, which burnt down in 48 BC, or the burning of millions of books by the Nazis. His dissertation -- which required archival work in Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, Paris, Wien and several other locations -- was published in 2004 by Editorial Destino, and was published too in Mexico and Argentina by Random House. Today this book is currently a best seller considered a standard reference work for the subject and is currently edited in 12 countries.
His research into the destruction of libraries and archives was first motivated by his painful childhood memories of a flash flood that wiped away the library in his hometown, San Felix in southeastern Venezuela. He cherished the municipal library because since his parents worked, he had often been left with relatives who worked there, and spent his days reading.


In 2003, Baez has developed a growing interest in Cultural Destruction. Like an international expert on the destruction of libraries has helped to UNESCO document the devastation of cultural and religious objects in Iraq, where the ancient Mesopotamian kingdoms of Sumer, Akkad and Babylon emerged, giving it a reputation as the birthplace of civilization. His inventory of the destruction and his global denunciations that the coalition forces are violating the Hague Convention of 1954 on the protection of cultural heritage in times of war have earned him the enmity of Washington. After his trip to Iraq he has himself engaged in travel writing, publishing in 2004 his chronicle “La destruccion cultural e Iraq. Un testimonio de posguerra”, with a foreword by Noam Chomsky. There was a second edition in 2005 in Editorial Alfadil and many translations.
In 2004, Baez was include on a list of the most important intellectuals for new century in Courrier International and he was awarded many times. Most recently, in 2005, Fernando Baez has published El traductor de Cambridge, a novel, in Spain. In 2006, he published La hoguera de los intelectuales. His forthcoming books include a collection of long essays on early modern and modern cultural destruction in SouthAmerica (El saqueo cultural de America Latina), and a novel (Cronica del mar perdido) both to be published in Mexico and Spain. In 2007, he was awarded the Brazilian National Book Prize for Essays for “História Universal da Destruição dos Livros”.


Fernando Baez has taught graduate and undergraduate students in Venezuela (Caracas, Zulia, Merida); México (D.F., Guadalajara); Brazil (Rio de Janeiro); Colombia (Bogota, Medellín, Bucaramanga); Bolivia (La Paz, Santa Cruz); Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Castilla, Sevilla, Valencia); France (Paris, Lyon); Egypt (El Cairo); Jordan (Amman); Syria (Aleppo); Australia (Sydney); and England (London, Cambridge).
He has been UNESCO adviser. He is international adviser for many countries. Baez has been involved in the creation of local cultural foundations in Europe and SouthAmerica, as well as, in a consultant capacity, in several initiatives of regional and city councils, devoted to raising public awareness, at every level, of cultural destruction.
His current personal research project include a history of cultural war with a particular focus on the cultural heritage.

Two recent books:

"La destrucción cultural de Iraq. Un testimonio de posguerra" (2004), Publisher by Octaedro, Spain with an introduction by Noam Chomsky

"El traductor de Cambridge", Publisher by Lengua de Trapo, Madrid, 2005. Its his first novel.

Source : http://www.fernandobaez.galeon.com/

Source: Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias and Tlaxcala

Original article published on

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IMPERIUM : 29/09/2008