Books Are Burning

Books Are Burning

A Story by E. L. Foley

Columns of books piled waist high lined up in neat rows on the cobble-

stones. The spectrum of their covers was bright against the glass buildings of

the square and the white uniforms of the party members. The wind shivered

through their pages, rattling loudly in the expectant silence.

Behind the stacks, the podium looked small, but the eyes of the crowd

were firmly focused upon it. After one final sweep of security guards making

their delicate ballet among the gathered and around any cover in the area,

a figure mounted the dais and took her place behind the microphone. She

took a moment to let her strong gaze settle on the faces of her citizens as the

breeze ruffled her crisp blouse and plucked gently at the graying blond hair

tucked into a bun. As she began to speak, even the wind seemed to still.

“I recognize that this is a controversial move. Book burnings carry a

certain stigma, as I was reminded by my faithful advisor, James Atler. Some

of you are reminded of the Iris Wars or believe that this aligns us with the

dictators of the North, and wonder whether this is a signal of dark times. I

assure you that it is not.

“For others, to destroy a piece of art or knowledge is simply against

principle. It should be known that our Librarian General argued valiantly

against this gesture, and that I weighed his recommendations with great


“Others have suggested that this is a weak move, that if we seek a display

of justice, it should be a public execution of the instigators of the conflict.

Traitors will see their justice, but it will be in a court of law with the dignity

they deserve as citizens. I will not see any more blood shed in our streets.

“But we, as a nation, need a catharsis and I choose fire to cleanse us

of the fear and anger and uncertainty that has come to a head during the

last four months, to cleanse us of the words that put our proud Republic in


“There are those who say that actions speak louder than words, and yet

as a leader and a student of history, I find that the two are inextricably

linked. Words without action are empty, but actions not backed by words

are just as incomplete. And the words contained in these two books have

been wielded as weapons to bring about violence and insurrection.

“The treatise written by the leaders of the hostile faction known as the

League of Oranges is a work of hate-filled deception"racism masquerading as

science and idealism. It twists patriotism into an excuse for power plays and

the mistreatment of groups of citizens. This will not be tolerated.

“Neither will the response which called for merciless retribution and

blamed many for the opinions and actions of few. The poems of Carter

Levant, collected into the book Whispers, returned hatred with hatred, play-

ing on the emotions and culture of those whom the League had called out. It

sickens me to see such beautiful language used to sow fear and anger, further

dividing our nation.

“And so together, they will burn. As their ashes mingle, I hope that we

can regain some of the unity that our Republic has lost. If you are shocked

and outraged, tell your neighbor. If you are proud of this step, tell your

neighbor. If you worry about our future, tell your neighbor. I will set fire

to the books written in darkness, which brought only darkness, in order to

shed light upon the problems of our nation and the solutions we seek. If we

are to overcome the troubles of our history and our present, we must come

together. We must bring our words and actions into the open. The time has

come to purge our silence.”

On either side of the pile, party members took candles to the pages,

letting the tiny flames leap and grow. The sound of crackling, blackening

pages filled the still air and the smoke of the burning text rose to the sky.

The light brightened and flickered, reflecting on the buildings and casting

long shadows in the crowd.

© 2010 E. L. Foley

Author's Note

E. L. Foley
Listening to the song "Books are Burning" by XTC ( ) got me thinking about this topic, and provided the title. It's one of my all-time favorite songs--a power ballad for the written word. And the views expressed by my characters are not necessarily my own.

Any thoughts on the piece would be appreciated.

My Review

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I really liked this, I haven't heard the song, but half why through I thought I had been reading a poem, it ran together so smoothly. I really liked the concept of it as well.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Good write. I would like to see this expanded.

Posted 10 Years Ago

I can't be the only person who thought Fahrenheit 451.

I think this read more like a Prologue or Chapter 1. It feels like it can be expanded upon, into something that I would love to read.

Posted 10 Years Ago

This was a well written story, and showed a different side of why some have burned books. I wrote one story about book burning after watching Farenheit 451, I had it posted on here before. I would like to see you go further, maybe pick a central character, like one of the writers who feel they were wrongly accused by his writing. Sad that this practice is still going on today, not only for the reasons you have written about but others.

Posted 10 Years Ago

This story reads more like a history or philosophy assignment than a story.

Posted 10 Years Ago

As odious as book-burning may be, as offensive as may be your character's act, you have created a heroine that we must recognize even in our antipathy toward her decision. Your character is reasoned, yet decisive in doing what may seem an unreasonable thing. Her courage to act against the wishes of her public speaks to her commitment to uphold the republic which is established by them, for them, and for their collective good and protection. In this she is no less the renegade than the colonists of the Boston Tea Party. Crediting your craft, I must say that you have made me identify with, sympathize with a book-burner. No small task, well done.

Posted 10 Years Ago

I like this. The tirade is very captivating and it sounds like one a political leader would make to propagandize something. You'd make a great speech writer, no?

Posted 10 Years Ago

I felt anger while reading this story...any destruction of knowledge is not acceptable in my mind. Any book burnings are about control of people, to limit their knowledge, to control the "truth". Your story reads like political propaganda, trying to convince people that the books to be burnt are wrong and dangerous. Your story is well written...and makes me want to go save those books so I can see what I am not supposed to read.

Posted 10 Years Ago

I have to say this was not what I expected. I am all against burning books and destroying knowledge and I expected something of that nature in this story. Even though it was almost the opposite sentiment, it is very well written and I see the woman's point, she almost has me convinced. It's almost as if she is using symbolism as a weapon, burning the books as a symbol of the destruction coming for those who divided her nation.
It would be awesome to see this as something longer where we can hear the other side's point of view and see what is being burned in this scene.

Posted 10 Years Ago

I love XTC, I think I may even know the song you're speaking of.
It goes like:
"Books are burning in our own town,
watch us turn 'round and cast our glances elsewhere.
Books are burning in the playground.
Smell of burnt book is not unlike human hair."
I sung this coming into Language Arts class in the eighth grade and my teacher had a freak out.

This was a very nice concept, and it was great that you were able to write it based off a song without it being so obvious.

Posted 10 Years Ago

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22 Reviews
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on May 16, 2010
Last Updated on May 22, 2010
Tags: Books, Politics, Fictional Country, Moral Ambiguity


E. L. Foley
E. L. Foley

It Depends

Currently studying Physics, my other pursuits are largely done in the time stolen from lab reports, badly botched circuit building, and endless problems. I knit, write (obviously, though I'm not very.. more..


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