Art, Freedom, and Seeing 100,000 Banned Books


To many, the Parthenon of Ancient Greece represents ideals of democracy and thought. This year an artist is attempting to use 100,000 banned and censored books to create a new Parthenon.

Artist Marta Minujín is currently constructing The Parthenon of Books as a symbol of resistance. This isn’t the first time that she has used books in such a way; back in 1983 after the collapse of Argentina’s dictatorship, she created El Partenón de Libros (The Parthenon of Freedom). This early incarnation of the project featured 20,000 books, and at the end of its installation, cranes tipped the structure to one side so that people could take the books used in it.

Minujín’s new Parthenon will be a little different. In addition to being much larger in scale – it will be 100,000 books instead of 20,000 – the exhibit will draw from Central European rather than Argentinian history. It will sit in Kassel, Germany in Friedrichsplatz Park, a place where Nazi Party members once burned around 2,000 books that were deemed “un-German” in spirit. Books will include those banned by the Catholic Church, Nazi Germany, 18th century Austria, the Soviet Union and other groups.

Because the project is based in Germany and uses primarily Central and Eastern European lists of banned books, many of the titles may not be familiar to those in the English speaking world. However, a few of the more broadly known books featured in the exhibit are:

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Decameron
  • The Little Prince
  • Canterbury Tales
  • 1984

If you would like to download the full list of banned books, it is available here. (And was last updated in January of 2017.)

And if you have secreted away censored books of your own that you would like to share with the world, the project is currently accepting donations of relevant titles. You can read the donation requirements to find out more.

The exhibit will run in Friedrichsplatz Park, Kassel, June 10, 2017-September 17, 2017.

I’m interested in seeing how the piece turns out, so those of you who live closer will have to let me know what you think. I’m also curious to see how the structure will handle being in open weather. I have seen piles of books get wet. It is not a pretty picture.

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Image Attribution: Marta Minujín: El Partenón de libros, Buenos Aires, 1983. © Photo: Marta Minujín archive


21 thoughts on “Art, Freedom, and Seeing 100,000 Banned Books

  1. Thanks for another interesting post, Kristen. I could never understand the shallowness and hypocrisy of banning books. Such ignorance, and power-controlling crap! (Sorry, but it always makes my blood pressure shoot up with I think of the subject.) Okay, rant over. Thanks again, and I hope your book is doing well! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Events such as you describe help settle a question for me. In our home, these authors and books aren’t banned, indeed are welcome. The narrow listed academic attempt to censorship of the US literature is horrid to say the least. These wonderful authors offer a wit and insight into their day and age which cannot be denied and can help a parent guided youth to understand his or her place in a greater society. So, build on, I say. Add and read the more for a mind entertained by reading these authors is a mind well tuned to accept and process the real interests of the world and not an undignified partial view.
    Author Terry Palmer

    Liked by 1 person

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