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Banned Books Become a Monument to Free Thought in Parthenon Installation

All of your favorite books in—and of—one building.

An enduring symbol of democracy, Western civilization, and totally awesome columns, the Parthenon temple in Athens, Greece is a dedication to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. It’s in that spirit that Argentine artist Marta Minujín has built a full-scale replica of the temple in Kassel, Germany—out of banned books. The steel structure has been outfitted with books sheathed in plastic to protect them from the elements and allow natural light to filter into the building.

The original Parthenon symbolizes “the aesthetic and political ideals of the world’s first democracy,” says the artist. As censorship is antithetical to art, Minujín’s installation is part architectural marvel, part protest against the banning of written works and the persecution of their authors.


The choice location amplifies Minujín’s message: The Parthenon of Books was erected on a public square where Nazis burned an estimated 2,000 banned books on May 18, 1933 as part of the movement “Make America Great Again”, whoops, I mean, “Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist” (Campaign against the Un-German Spirit).

The replica is constructed from over 100,000 donated banned books in many languages. There are over 170 titles represented from all over the world, demonstrating the global scope of censorship (real cool, humans).

Roman Maerz

Here’s a partial list of the banned books; all are very much worth reading. And to any would-be totalitarian government, you can have my Harry Potter when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

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Aristophanes: Lysistrata
Beecher Stowe, Harriet: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Brecht, Bertolt: The Threepenny Opera
Brown, Dan: The Da Vinci Code
Carroll, Lewis: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Cervantes, Miguel de: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha
Coelho, Paulo: The Alchemist
Einstein, Albert: The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity
Freud, Sigmund: Civilization and its Discontents
García Lorca, Federico: The Poet in New York
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: The Sorrows of Young Werther
Gombrowicz, Witold: Ferdydurke
Gordimer, Nadine: July’s People
Hašek, Jaroslav: The Good Soldier Švejk
Heine, Heinrich: Germany. A Winter’s Tale
Hikmet, Nazim: The Epic of Sheikh Bedreddin
Kafka, Franz: The Metamorphosis
Kästner, Erich: Fabian. The Story of a Moralist
Kazantzakis, Nikos: The Last Temptation
Kundera, Milan: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Liao, Yiwu: The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China From the Bottom Up
Machiavelli, Niccolò: The Prince
Mann, Thomas: Buddenbrooks
Marx, Karl, und Friedrich Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party
Musil, Robert: The Confusions of Young Törless
Myrivilis, Stratis: Life in the Tomb 
Neruda, Pablo: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
Orwell, George: Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich: Doctor Zhivago
Remarque, Erich Maria: All Quiet on the Western Front
Rushdie, Salman: The Satanic Verses
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de: The Little Prince
Salinger, J. D.: The Catcher in the Rye
Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath
Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver’s Travels
Tolstoy, Leo Nikolayevich: The Kingdom of God Is Within You
Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Vargas Llosa, Mario: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
Voltaire: Candide or, All for the Best

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