Buenos Aires: World Book Capital

Tower of books in Buenos Aires (click to enlarge)

Saw in the press that Buenos Aires has been named the “World Book Capital” for 2011, by the United Nations. In honor of that nice distinction, a famous Argentine artist, Marta Minujin, created a tower of babel from donated books.

When the tower comes down, the books will be donated to various somewhat impoverished libraries, but also individuals will be allowed to come and take away one book each, which the artist calls the “library of babel,” from a Borges story.

This sculpture is about 75 meters high and is constructed with more than 30,000 books, all of which were donated for the project by some individuals, libraries, and more than 50 embassies – including the US Embassy, through which about 40 or so books from my shelves went somewhere on the tower.

These books were written in most of the world’s languages, and quite a few dialects. A real Babel. People in small groups — I hear it is somewhat rickety — can go inside and walk a spiral ramp to the top. I walked by here yesterday but was not tempted to go inside.

Coming just after the close of the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, where more than a million people stand in long, long lines just to wander around displays of books and listen to authors reading, it is no wonder Buenos Aires would be named World Book Capital.”

At the book fair, many booths and stands (including the US Embassy’s stand) displayed the variety of eReading devices. They were viewed by most of the audience as toys. Here, they still read books.

Sometimes it is hard to remember just what it is I don’t like about this city.

Book Babel


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