Penguin Random House Donates 5,000 Titles to New “Parthenon of Books”
Argentine artist Marta Minujín has created “Parthenon of Books,” a central piece in Documenta 14, one of the largest modern art shows in the world, being presented in Kassel, Germany, as well as its traditional home in Athens, Greece. Thirty-four years ago, Ms. Minujín constructed a similar art installment in Buenos Aires, Argentina to speak out against dictatorially-imposed censorship. For the past year, she has been collecting banned books as well as seeking donations in order to build a “Parthenon of Books,” or “Parthenon der Bücher,” in Germany.
Penguin Random House donated more than 5,000 books from its US, UK and Spanish publishers to this endeavor, including William Goldings’ LORD OF THE FLIES (Penguin Books), Marjane Satrapi’s PERSEPOLIS (Pantheon), Anne Frank’s THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL (Doubleday), and Khaled Hosseini’s THE KITE RUNNER (Riverhead Books), frequently featured on Banned Books lists. German sister company Random House Verlagsgruppe also contributed titles.
This new Parthenon of Books dwarfs its 1983 predecessor (which held 25,000 volumes) and holds 100,000 books, including ones published by Penguin Random House imprints. Rather than being constructed with limestone and marble like the original Parthenon, the “banned books” replica has been formed with 46 metal grills, covered in plastic sleeves that hold the thousands of books. It does, however, match the original dimensions of the Athenian masterpiece. The featured piece, unveiled on June 10, will be on display for 100 days.
Documenta 14’s main building stands in Kassel’s Friedrichsplatz Park, where Nazis once burned 2,000 books as part of the “Campaign against the Un-German Spirit” in 1933.
Documenta was founded in 1955 as a way to accelerate Germany’s participation in modern art as well as rid the country of Nazi cultural darkness. This is why the Parthenon of Books, although meant to send a signal against censorship, will not contain any copies of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, although it is a German book. Along with titles contributed by Penguin Random House, the structure will contain classic works by Balzac, the Brothers Grimm, Turgenev, and Chekhov, and even a copy of the Bible. Documenta, which occurs every five years, expects more than one million visitors this year, with the Parthenon expected to be the biggest draw.
Following its showing at Documenta 14, the Parthenon der Bücher will be dismantled and its banned books distributed freely to the public—spreading the thoughts and words that were provocative and beautiful enough to be banned.