NABOKV-L post 0011037, Wed, 16 Feb 2005 17:58:34 -0800

Fw: Fw: Nabokov (1899-1977) burnt "El Quixote" in front of
hisstudents. ...
----- Original Message -----
From: "Susan Elizabeth Sweeney" <>
Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2005 2:40 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Nabokov (1899-1977) burnt "El Quixote" in front of
hisstudents. ...

What a bizarre and preposterous claim! I wonder if it stems from some
grotesque mistranslation of a statement about VN having illuminated the
novel for a class or enlightened them about its meaning or something.

>>> 02/16/05 11:53 AM >>>
----- Original Message -----
From: Dmitri Nabokov
Sent: Tuesday, February 15, 2005 4:03 AM
Subject: TR : Nabokov (1899-1977) burnt "El Quixote" in front of his
students. ...

Dear Don (please post),

What "expert" Báez says about my father is utter hogwash. He had best sit
down before he topples onto his left flank. Shame on the IPS for printing
undocumented disinformation.

Dmitri Nabokov

-----Message d'origine-----
De : Sandy P. Klein []
Envoyé : mercredi, 16. février 2005 04:03
À :
Objet : Nabokov (1899-1977) burnt "El Quixote" in front of his students. ...

'Biggest Cultural Disaster Since 1258', Says Expert
Inter Press Service (subscription), World - 5 hours ago
... Intellectuals have burnt books in the name of the Bible or the Koran.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) burnt "El Quixote" in front of his students.

'Biggest Cultural Disaster Since 1258', Says Expert
Humberto Márquez

CARACAS, Feb 15 (IPS) - One million books, 10 million documents and 14,000
archaeological artifacts have been lost in the U.S.-led invasion and
subsequent occupation of Iraq -- the biggest cultural disaster since the
descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed Baghdad in 1258, Venezuelan writer
Fernando Báez told IPS.

"U.S. and Polish soldiers are still stealing treasures today and selling
them across the borders with Jordan and Kuwait, where art merchants pay up
to 57,000 dollars for a Sumerian tablet," said Báez, who was interviewed
during a brief visit to Caracas.

The expert on the destruction of libraries has helped 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 civilisation.

His inventory of the destruction and his 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.

Báez said he was refused a visa to enter the United States to take part in

In addition, he has been barred from returning to Iraq "to carry out further
investigations," he added. "But it's too late, because we already have
documents, footage and photos that in time will serve as evidence of the
atrocities committed," said Báez, the author of "The Cultural Destruction of
Iraq" and "A Universal History of the Destruction of Books", which were
published in Spanish.

IPS: What do you accuse the United States of doing?

FB: In first place, of violating the Hague Convention, which states that
cultural property must be protected in the event of armed conflict.

That is a criminally punishable offence, which is why Washington has not
signed the convention, or the 1999 protocol attached to it. And perhaps it
is one reason the administration of George W. Bush is seeking immunity for
its soldiers.

But it is not only the United States; the rest of the coalition forces are
also guilty.

IPS: But according to the reports, it was Iraqi civilians and not U.S.
soldiers who looted libraries and museums.

FB: But the U.S. army was criminally negligent, failing to protect
libraries, museums and archaeological sites despite clear warnings from
UNESCO (the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), the
U.N., the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute and the former head of
the U.S. president's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property, Martin

The Iraqis who went out to loot interpreted the negligence as a green light
to act without restraint.

IPS: So the sin committed by the U.S. was one of omission?

FB: Not only that. There was also direct destruction and looting. In
Nasiriya in May 2004, a year after the formal end of hostilities, during
fighting with (Shi'ite cleric) Muqtada el-Sadr's militants, 40,000 religious
manuscripts were destroyed in a fire (set by the coalition forces).

And when soldiers found out that the Sumerian city of Ur (in southern Iraq)
was the birthplace of the prophet Abraham, they took ancient bricks as

IPS: You also accuse soldiers from other countries, besides U.S. troops.

FB: That's right. In late May 2004, Italian Carabinieri were caught trying
to smuggle looted cultural artifacts over the border into Kuwait. And the
British Museum reported that Polish forces destroyed part of Babylon's
ancient ruins, to the south of Baghdad.

IPS: Can we suppose that these events are part of phases of the conflict
that have already been left behind?

FB: No. More recently it was found that Polish troops drove heavy vehicles
near the Nebuchadnezzar Palace, which dates back to the sixth century B.C.,
and then covered large areas of the site with asphalt, doing irreparable
damage. There were also attempts to gouge out bricks at the Gate of Ishtar.

To that is added the collapse of ancient walls due to the continuous passage
of U.S. trucks and helicopters, and walls spraypainted with graffiti, like
"I was here" or "I love Mary".

IPS: Can we expect the situation to improve with time?

FB: Another accusation that can be made against the United States is that it
has created a less safe country overall, by generating the conditions for
cultural destruction, which will be even worse in future years, due to the
situation of legal insecurity.

In the days of the looting of Baghdad, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld went so far as to say that looting "isn't something that someone
allows or doesn't allow. It's something that happens."

Today Iraq is like a golf course for the world's terrorists, and its
cultural treasures will not be safe in the future.

IPS: What impact has there been on the United States?

FB: One of its reactions was to rejoin UNESCO, which the U.S. had withdrawn
from during the era of (Ronald) Reagan (1981-1989) on the pretext that the
U.N. agency served as "a communist front".

Experts at the U.S. state and defence departments are trying to mitigate the
damages. U.S. military police helped Iraqi police track down the Lady of
Warka, dubbed the "Mona Lisa of Mesopotamia", a 5,200-year-old marble
sculpture that is one of the earliest known representations of the human
face in the history of art.

IPS: How significant are the losses?

FB: The Lady of Warka may be worth 100 or 150 million dollars. A Sumerian
cuneiform tablet or an Assyrian stela can fetch 57,000 dollars at the

Some Iraqis have been purchasing books at used-book markets in Baghdad to
return them to the libraries.

But the damage is incalculable. In the Baghdad National Library, around one
million books were burnt, including early editions of Arabian Nights,
mathematical treatises by Omar Khayyam, and tracts by philosophers Avicena
and Averroes.

IPS: Thousands of relics were also lost from the National Archaeological

FB: The initial reports spoke of 170,000 objects, but 25 major artifacts as
well as 14,000 less important ones actually disappeared. An amnesty for the
looters led to the recovery of around 3,500, according to the U.S. colonel
who led the investigations, Matthew Bogdanos.

But besides the national museum and library, the Al-Awqaf library, which
held over 5,000 Islamic manuscripts, university libraries and the library of
Bayt al-Hikma also suffered. At least 10 million documents have been lost in
Iraq altogether.

(Báez has said 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 Félix 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.

His research culminated in "A Universal History of the Destruction of
Books", which documents the catastrophic loss of books during wars, like the
Library of Alexandria, which burnt down in 48 B.C., or the burning of
millions of books by the Nazis.)

IPS: Do you believe military forces have been the worst enemy of books?

FB: No, actually I don't. I believe intellectuals are the worst enemies.
Intellectuals have burnt books in the name of the Bible or the Koran.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) burnt "El Quixote" in front of his students.
Destroyers like Adolph Hitler or Slobodan Milosevic were bibliophiles.
Saddam Hussein himself, an archaeologist and philologist, published three
novels. Joseph Goebbels, the genius of Nazi propaganda, was a philologist.

And many of those who have led the U.S. to war in Iraq are academics. It is
a paradox: the inventors of the electronic book returned to Mesopotamia,
where books, history and civilisation were born, to destroy it. (END/2005)

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