Books? Or Life Savers?

by Yasmin

That day I read this quote on The Quote Garden: Books support us in our solitude and keep us from being a burden to ourselves.

That particular Quote Garden page on books had many more such sayings and if you are a bookworm, you will agree with them wholeheartedly. But these are sayings on how books save our souls. There is a movie, The Day After Tomorrow, and a book, The Book Thief, where books actually keep people alive, in the physical sense of the term that is.

The Day After Tomorrow is a science fiction disaster film about a series of catastrophic weather events that strike the Earth as a result of massive global warming. There is heavy flooding in Manhattan and some students manage to find shelter in the New York Public Library as temperatures continue to plummet. And they burn books to keep themselves warm inside the library! Well, some of them do resent the act at first (bookworms probably) but given a choice between burning books and freezing to death, they choose to live.

For a split second I wondered if they could have burned pieces of furniture instead. Actually, the sight of scores of books being flung into the fire was a bit distressing but then, I was not the one freezing to death. So, that’s it. At the end of the day, or the movie, New York Public Library gets snowed in but the group inside manages to hang on. Saved by books!

The events in the book, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, too unfold with cataclysmic events (although, of a different kind) in the backdrop. It is Nazi Germany during the Second World War. There was death everywhere—in the extermination and concentration camps and after Allied bombings—and everybody, both the Jews and the ordinary Germans, lived uneasy lives.

And then Himmel Street was bombed. It was flattened and as Death (the narrator of the story) observes, “Houses were splashed from one side of the street to the other.” And all while the residents were asleep.

Only Liesel Meminger survives. And she survived because she was sitting in the basement of her house. Reading.

The Book Thief is about Liesel and her love for books. And her love is so obsessive that she steals from Nazi book-burnings and the mayor’s wife’s libraries. Books “feed her soul,” give her solace, and ultimately, it is a book that saves her life.