[Local events] The Book That Saved Our Lives

David Abel passages at rdrop.com
Sat Aug 26 00:50:28 PDT 2006

"The attack lasted less than half an hour. The fire lasted into the next 
day. The sun was obscured by the smoke of books, and all over the city 
sheets of burned paper, fragile pages of grey ashe, floated down like a 
dirty black snow. Catching a page you could feel its heat, and for a 
moment read a fragment of text in a strange kind of black and grey 
negative, until, as the heat dissipated, the page melted to dust in your 
hand. . . . "

That's a paragraph from the middle of an article by Kemal Bakarsic, "The 
Libraries of Sarajevo and the Book That Saved Our Lives." I've read that 
paragraph to audiences many times over the years, as part of 
lectures/performances related to the experiences of books.

The article was first published in August 1994, in Bill Ney's political 
magazine The New Combat. As a memorial to Kemal, who died this summer, 
Bill has begun to resurrect The New Combat online 
(http://www.newcombat.net), beginning with a reprinting of that article 
(and other material to come, he says).

Rereading it now, I wanted to share it with as many people as I could. 
So I hope that if you read it, and it moves you, you might forward the 
link to others.

For Kemal's sake (and perhaps my own), I hope that Bachelard was right 
(it's in the final paragraph).


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