March 18, 2016
Henry Miller books burned by Russia’s “pagan librarians Perun”
by Chad Felix
Henry Miller‘s been protested before, and if recent news out of Krasnodar, Russia is any indicator, he’ll continue being protested for as long as we’re around. (Also, more notably, he’ll be read and celebrated.)
As RT reports, a video of shirtless (of course) teenage boys performing a “ritual” was uploaded to YouTube this week. That ritual? The burning of Henry Miller’s works.
In a press release created for the book burning outing (yes, a press release), the group, which calls itself the “pagan librarians Perun,” writes that, “Henry Miller’s works are an archetype of a morally decaying western world with its prevalence of fornication and its decline of family values.” And so they had to go.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that the pagan librarians don’t intend to just burn all bad books. In many cases, they will “secretly correct” them: “[S]ometimes it was just enough to get rid of a couple of pages to turn a ‘harmful’ book into a ‘decent’ one,” the group notes in the release. To this end, the group claims to be developing a “virus” that will automatically correct—censor—web versions of titles with “amoral” content. This seems farfetched, but okay. In the case of Miller’s work, however, the books are too far gone and impossible to “edit” to the group’s standards.
The video itself is a very strange thing to behold, equal parts boys-discover-fire mocumentary and True Detective: Season 1. In between footage of the books being placed into the fire, the young men, faces overexposed and obscured by firelight, stand half naked before the pyre. They chant and clap in sync over tense, Disney-sounding orchestral music. They leap over the fire. They hold hands, they prostrate themselves before the flames. And then, at the very end, they kind of wave goodbye to the camera?
The group notes that, thanks to their efforts, only a few copies of the offending titles remain in circulation, a claim that relevant authorities quickly dismissed as false, as the books burned by the group showed no signs of being from library collections.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.