On the 19th of May I went to the book launch of Pulp: A Short History of the Banished Book by Shubigi Rao at Books Actually here in Singapore.
… a ten-year long film, book, visual art, and exhaustive research project about the history of book destruction, censorship and cultural genocide, as well as the book as symbol and resistance. Travelling and filming solo across the world, collecting fragments, ephemera, anecdotes, and buried secrets, she visits public and private collections, libraries and archives, institutions and individuals that have served as flashpoints in history.
This is the first book in a series of five, and as such holds the undiluted joy of loving books, and furious anger and sorrow at their destruction.
“If our history is anything to go by, all books are predestined ashes, whether burning, flying like confetti at a fascist parade, or pulped, dissolved, rendered into nothing more than fragments, scraps of phrases in the living memory of its ageing readers. This book (like all books) is about what it means to be human and build fictions, and also how human it is to burn them.” [x]
Shubigi didn’t really talk a lot, I WISHED SHE DID!! I wanted to hear her talk more about books as a whole and the written and printed word and whatever she was thinking to be honest. But I did take some notes!!
The following text was spoken by Shubigi Rao during the opening launch at Books Actually:
- It’s important not to romanticize all books as some books CAN oppress.
- When a book comes under fire, it is important that there has to be one place where they can escape scrutiny.. [in regards to an account of someone slipping a Salman Rushdie book into a safe storage that is never opened]
- Genocide goes hand in hand with cultural genocide… It is not enough to kill people, but to destroy their spirit as well [through their culture].
- Modern books have a shelf life of about 60 years because of the paper used!
- Books teach us that our voice is one among many in humanity, and that this one voice was chosen to be recorded.
- The fluency at comprehending a book is limited, like the understanding of [individual] people.
- Pacifism is a naiive ideal, but so is the [idea] of writing a book, and expecting people to read it.
- My editor couldn’t sleep for 3 nights after reading the section “Flood and Fire” [which is about the destroying of books and libraries] It is horrific to read because no culture is exempt from this and the writers of history erase these events.
- When the Zero (0) reached Europe, it was banned because it represented nothingness and was the absence of god. So it was used in secret… It takes a remarkable will and speaks mountains about the banning of ‘new knowledge’.
- The fear of people reading is present in every culture that they try to control.
[img src] The inside of the dark jade green dust jacket has a map depicting events mentioned in the book!
After her talk I went up to her to get my edition of her book signed and mentioned to her how when I first saw the book and browsed through it, that it looked so ‘tasty’ to me and that I always tend to use food analogies when talking about books. In turn she said this:
“There are a lot of food metaphors in the book in the guise of ‘digestibles‘. Pulp is like the oat mush you get in an infirmary.“
So the pulp mush of the book is more like a gruel than a smoothie.
Still looks damn appetizing if you ask me.
[img src: unknown]
Where to buy a copy:
- From Books Actually!