Parthenon Made Out of Banned Literature Needs More “Building Books”

Banned and Challenged Books, Censorship, International issues

By: Ellie Diaz

Parthenon of Books, Photo Credit: Marta Minujin Archive
The Partenon de los libros was constructed in 1983 after the dictatorship in Argentina. Photo credit: Marta Minujin Archive

In 1933, Nazis threw 2,000 books deemed “un-German” into a pyre at Friedrichsplatz in Kassel, Germany. This summer, a different pile of forbidden books will be constructed in the same location.

To kick-off documenta 14 — a series of art exhibitions hosted every five years — 100,000 books that have been banned around the globe will be used to create a replica of the Greek Parthenon.

The Parthenon of Books aims to serve as a symbol of democracy and a retaliation against censorship.

“The Parthenon of Books sets an example against violence, discrimination, and intolerance,” said artistic director of documenta 14 Adam Szymczyk in a press statement.

The Freedom to Read Foundation and the Office for Intellectual Freedom donated a few titles to be included in the Parthenon of Books.
The Freedom to Read Foundation and the Office for Intellectual Freedom donated a few titles to the Parthenon of Books.

This isn’t the first attempt to build a Parthenon out of forbidden books. The artist behind the exhibit, Marta Minujín, constructed a similar instillation in 1983 in Argentina. Her Partenón de los libros celebrated the willingness toward a free society after the breakdown of dictatorship. The Parthenon of Books has a more ambitious goal, standing for 95 more days than the original and made with tens of thousands more books.

To accomplish this feat, documenta is relying on donations of banned and challenged books from around the world. The Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation contributed four challenged books: two novels from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series, a graphic novel by Jeff Smith and Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

After the 100-day exhibit, the forbidden books will be distributed to the surrounding crowd.

If you can’t book a ticket to Germany to view the exhibit, consider contributing your favorite banned books as building blocks for a monument against censorship and the destruction of ideas. Instructions on how to donate, including the shipping address and contribution form, can be found on the documenta 14 website.


Ellie Diaz is the Program Officer in charge of Banned Books Week and staff liaison to the Intellectual Freedom Committee. As a journalist, she wrote regularly for the Loyola Phoenix newspaper about advocacy in literature, and she has contributed to several social justice publications. Ellie is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, committed to free press, access to information and ethical standards. She’s currently working through all seven seasons of “The West Wing” and crossing off books from her ever-expanding “to-read” list.


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