Colin Thubron's Night of Fire follows the preoccupations, memories, and fates of six tenants of a burning house, and this searing, poetic masterwork of memory went on sale earlier this month to rave reviews. In addition to earning starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus, Night of Fire also received this fantastic praise from Ron Charles of the Washington Post: "Night of Fire may be the hottest novel of the year, but the real heat is generated by Thubron’s gorgeous prose and his reflections on the persistence of memory.... A profound and exquisite novel.”
Today, I'm very excited to share a special message about libraries from the author himself. Read on!
My love of libraries began in the great Pantheon-like reading-room of the British Museum. Marx, Ghandi and Lenin were all readers here, as were Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf. Astonishing the silence that reigned in that huge, echoing building. When it closed down and moved, my heart sank. Its successor was completed three times over budget and years overdue. Prince Charles famously dubbed its reading room as better suited to a secret police academy. But in fact it is superb. The institution has quietly endeared itself to visiting Londoners, and its soft, open-plan spaces mute the noise of more than 1,200 readers.
It is a strange comfort to work here now, in a Britain where libraries have never been more threatened and depleted. As local councils find their budgets cut, these oases of quiet civilization in the commercial high street disappear. Every week another library or two closes down: almost 350 in the past six years.
In a lifetime of travelling, it is the fragility of libraries that most strikes me. Fire, in the end, must be the chief enemy of the book. The great library of Alexandria was consumed in successive fires over eight centuries, to our incalculable loss. Among the ruins of ancient Pergamon in Turkey you may see no more than an overgrown stone bench from the 200,000-volume library of the Hellenistic kings; the great imperial library of Constantinople was periodically engulfed in flames.
My publisher has just brought out my novel, Night of Fire, wrapped in an artificially singed jacket, reflective of the fire that ravages the building whose tenants’ stories form the heart of the book. If an apocalyptic fire should engulf our planet, this novel will be ready for it. In fact the only library that may escape such a cataclysm is a Confucian temple I visited in the old Chinese capital of Xian. There, over a millennium ago, a forest of eight-foot-high stones was inscribed in black granite, preserving the laws and songs of ancient China. It is a bewitching and strange experience to walk down this avenue of words, which—in any final apocalypse—may be the survivor of all our written endeavors.
I think we can all agree on the importance of libraries, now more than ever. Make sure you check out Night of Fire, on shelves now!