Past as Future:
The Burden of the Genocide Memorial
Designing a memorial or a museum to explain a genocide is no easy task. A genocide, by definition, is complex, contextualized, unfathomable, horrific in its scope. Such events resist placards, exhibit halls, memorial sculptures, public art pieces. The risk of oversimplification through memorialization has not prevented people from trying, however. Indeed, internationally there has been a wide precedent for genocide memorials, with varying approaches and varying degrees of success.
Figure 1: Exhibit overload at the US Holocaust Museum.
One of the most universally lauded is the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, where visitors become complicit in the experience when they are assigned an actual ID card from one of the inhabitants of the Nazi concentration camps. After an exhaustive, three hour tour through the museum, wading through image after image, artifact after artifact, the visitor discovers if their person (and by extension they themselves) survived. Most, of course, do not. Beyond this somewhat gimmicky role play, the DC Holocaust museum works precisely because of its comprehensiveness—your normal defenses against such atrocities become worn down through the careful and persistent work of the curator’s hand, and by the time you reach the end of the museum, you are exhausted—intellectually, physically, and spiritually—and thus are much more open to contemplating that which cannot really be contemplated.
Figure 2: Lost in Berlin.
The Jewish Memorial in Berlin takes a different approach. This is not a museum of artifacts or photographs or video clips. This is an immersive sculpture installation that you approach, walk through, sit on. In the shadow of the Brandenburg gate and the US Embassy, four hundred metallic, rectangular columns of varying lengths sit in a large black-wide grid. As you wander into their midst, the ground begins to slope down, taking you with it. The world slips away, and you can see nothing but the sky above you. The columns swallow you up. In the middle of the sculpture, you realize the height of the columns were deceptive from a distance: in fact the ones in the center of the grid are taller than the others; they arise not from ground level, but from the bottom of a pit. All was not as it seemed. You meander through these long rows of columns, oblivious to the city, suddenly lost in a forrest of anonymous columns. And then, somewhere in the maze, you stumble across another wanderer, suddenly. There is a moment of great terror, until you realize he is just and lost as you are. The vast sculpture is deceptive in its simplicity, but it persists in your consciousness long after you leave, asking deep question about complicity, individualism, deception, guilt, ignorance—questions no exhibit hall can ask. Such a memorial is particularly interesting in the context of the modern German city, for Germans are still wrestling with how to articulate, explain, memorialize this part of their history. There is no real “Nazi” museum in Berlin yet. One is in the works, but you can feel the sensitivity of the issue at hand. Still: if you can build a museum, come to a sort of national consensus about going ahead with the project; if you can articulate a story, explain the madness, then maybe a kind of reconciliation has been a achieved.
This is particularly evident in Serbia and Bosnia, where the story of what happened during the 1990s is up for debate. If you go to Belgrade, you will find no museum or memorial about the war. Serbs disagree about the facts of the war—who was to blame, what happened, where the sense of responsibility lies. Most sites from the war are not labeled, are not talked about. We once stayed in notorious “rape hotel” because no one told us about the building’s history. Everything was covered up. It was only later that we found out, and this discovery of our ignorance was like waking up from a bad dream.
In Belgrade you will still see buildings half disintegrated from NATO bombings, but these can hardly be called a memorial—they lack the self-awareness and purposeful questioning of history that is present in a real memorial. In Sarajevo, you will find Sarajevo roses, mortar craters filled with red paint to mark the places where shells fell and killed civilians buying bread or shopping at a market. But they are easily missed. People walk over them, attending to their daily business. They remember what happened, but they do not want to dwell; they want to move on with their lives and one cannot blame them. As visitors to places where there has been great tragedy, we come hungry for easy sips of history; we simply want a site to visit so we can check off the box now: I’ve done that genocide. This may be true, but I think the state, condition, and presentation of a country’s public memorial tells a lot about the national psyche vis à vis their past.
Figure 3: A tourist contemplates skulls at the Killing Fields.
As in the Balkans, one can feel that Cambodia is still working through its stance on how to present the Khmer Rouge’s murderous regime during the 1970s. When one visits Phnom Pehn, there are the requisite “Genocide Sites” of the Killing Fields, a pagoda filled with hundred of skulls and bones, and the Tuol Seng Torture Museum, a former high school that became a brutally efficient interrogation hall. Both are mind-numbing in their presentation of the brutalities, but also a little creepy in their presentation. I kept feeling like a voyeur who was staring at the bones of dead people and trying to feel an approximate horror. The Killing Fields pagoda in particular has become the universal symbol for memorializing atrocity in third world countries. The message becomes: show lots and lots of bones. I’m not sure how I would feel about this if one of those unidentified skulls on display was my son’s skull. But: it’s what the tourists want to see. They take their pictures, feel something, and then go back to their hotel. If you travel outside of Phnom Pehn, however, particularly in the Northwest Provinces, where the Khmer Rouge remained in power until 1990, the story becomes much less neater, as citizens shared mixed feelings about the legacy of what happened. Many of these communities are still run by former Khmer Rouge commanders, who have since done many good things for the locals. You get a sense that just because there is tourist attraction full of bones in the capital this doesn’t define the terms of the story or the genocide for many local Cambodians. Visitors need a cohesive narrative, but locals have to continue to live with the actors on both sides of the Genocide. Maybe their neighbor killed hundreds of people but saved their father’s life. How do you condemn a man like this particularly when he is still your neighbor?
Yesterday we visited the Memorial Center in Kigale, Rwanda. Rwanda is an interesting case study because unlike the examples above, there was and is a conscious, official, government-sanctioned effort to form a cohesive narrative of the atrocities that occurred in 1994, almost to the detriment of any other narratives that run against the accepted story. This is not to say the country has made total peace with its past—despite great economic resurgence, despite the outlawing of the inflammatory terms “tutsi” and “hutu,” I got the sense that there is still unaddressed racial tensions bubbling beneath the surface. Unlike in the Balkans, however, who experience their trauma around the same time, the terms of the genocide are out in the open. I think Rwandans realized there was simply no way to go forward without such spiritual reconciliation and confrontation: too many people died in such a small country. There was no place to hide.
As part of this process of reconciliation, the country is littered with memorials to the genocide. The one we visited in Kigale was the largest in the country. I must say, as a memorial, the place is a mixed success. In some ways it feels remorseless to critique a site that is dedicated to the murder of hundreds of thousands of people, but I will attempt to do so anyways, even if I risk sounding insensitive. The layout of the museum and memorial feels very local: the gardens that surround the main building are filled with indigenous, symbolic plants and take their design cues from Rwandan architecture and history. The “garden of unity” flows into the “garden of conflict” flows into the “garden of reconciliation.” Among other things, the gardens feature elephant statues, which symbolize memory and the act of never forgetting, and even a stature of a gorilla on a cell phone, which symbolizes the Rwandan’s duty to tell the world about what happened so it will not happen again.
Unlike many other memorials, there are actual re-intered mass graves at the site. These take on the form of giant concrete slabs which hide hundred and hundreds of coffins filled with bones. I’m not quite sure what form a mass grave should take on. The slabs lacked any sort of hint as to the number of people resting beneath. Next to the slabs there was a “wall of names” although there were only a few hundred names as compared to the apparent 250,000 people buried there, a disconnect that was almost more powerful than the slabs themselves. One wouldn’t want something as macabre as the Killing Fields’ tower of skulls. But the slabs felt oddly unaffected. If this was the point, then this point was not followed through fully. There was a lack of attention: they looked like the foundations of houses laid by a rather shoddy construction crew. The concrete was crumbling in places. Again, I was mad at myself for being so unfeeling and critical, but I also thought: there are people under there. There is a way to let us understand this, simply, with a gesture at our universal humanness, and that is not happening here. More attention needs to be paid.
The museum itself was a different story. The money for the site was provided by the Kigali City Council and the Aegis Foundation—a UK-based foundation whose main mission is to explain, document, and prevent genocides around the world. Their mission statement was evident in museum’s curatorial choices. I did briefly wonder if this was just another form of colonial exportation—the historiographic preoccupation with genocides across cultures—but my worries fell away when I saw the quality and care of the exhibits.
The ground floors went through Rwanda before, leading up to, during, and then after the genocide, with attempts to really unpack the causes of violence. There was a room full of pictures of those killed, there was a room full of bones in cases, and another that displayed clothes found on victims in the mass graves. As much I hated myself for falling under this “Killing Field”-like manipulation, I was moved by these exhibits. They work because they connect the individual detail—the Superman blanket worn by the child in his last moments—to the unfathomable cultural phenomenon of a country-wide genocide. As humans we hunger for a story that we connect to, and like it or not, manipulative or not, the specific artifact allows us to latch onto such a story.
Upstairs, there was an exhibit on the history of genocide in the 20th century. I had never before seen this in a museum. Again, the exhibits were clearly influenced by the ideology of Aegis, but such an ideology here felt comprehensive and worthwhile for display. I found myself completely absorbed moving from Armenia to Namibia to Treblinka. The exhibit drew connections across these vastly different genocides in subtle ways as to causes, commonalities, but mainly the exhibits was just a presentation of the fragility of society, of our tendency to categorize, separate, subjugate our neighbors and how quickly such thinking can lead to vast, organized violence. Maybe my visceral response and preference for this kind of survey was as much a commentary on my own values and partiality for historiography. Our responses to these memorials say as much about us as they do about the culture who has suffered through the genocide, but then this is always true.
The question persists: are these memorials important? Are they more than just a tourist attraction, a shorthand for empathy, a cursory take on events which cannot be summarized or presented very easily? I think they are. Dealing with the painful narratives of the past is a long and difficult process for any country, but ultimately a necessary process and the research, design, execution of a museum is one important public step along this road to reconciliation. Every April, Rwandans come to the Memorial site to mark the anniversary of the genocide. For them, the place is more than just a museum; it has become a place of memory and healing. The museum is now a part of their future as much as their past.
While trying to remain hopeful about the future of Moscow’s urban development, it’s easy to grow disillusioned when one looks at the great follies of its past, and in particular the incredible architectural havoc wreaked by its domineering mayor, Yury Luzhkov, during his 18 year reign from 1992-2010.
Figure 1: Luzhkov, a man with terrible taste.
Mr. Luzhkov suffered from a penchant for the gaudy and the very ugly, exemplified by his cozy relationship with the hideous (and prolific) sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. Tsereteli is responsible for designing perhaps the worst piece of public art in the history of mankind, a 300ft tall statue (twice that of the Statue of Liberty) of Peter the Great standing atop a series of stacked ships, all seemingly hailing from Jamaica.
Figure 2: Many eyes have been burned by Tsereteli’s disaster.
Legend has it (and Russia is full of legends) that the statue was first offered to the United States as a depiction of Christopher Columbus, but when the US unsurprisingly rejected the gift, hasty preparations were made to adapt the figure into Peter the Great, despite the fact that he disliked Moscow and even went so far as to move the capital to St. Petersburg. The statue is almost universally disdained, to the point where someone actually tried to blow it up—unsuccessfully, as the piece is made out of solid bronze. A 24 hour guard is now necessary.
Figure 3: The original Hotel Moskva, with its schizo facades.
Perhaps in no other building are the architectural paradoxes of Moscow better embodied than in the famous Hotel Moskva. Designed by Alexey Shchusev and opened in 1935, the Moskva became one of the city’s finest hotels and is even featured on the Stolichnaya vodka label. Standing in front of the building, however, visitors must’ve noticed the hotel’s somewhat schizophrenic facade: one of its wings is much more austere than its Neo-Classical counterpart. Legend has it (again with these legends!) that a sheet of paper was submitted to Stalin with both designs pictured and instructions to sign off on one of them. Instead, Stalin signed directly in the middle of the page. Rather than go back to the dictator and risk pissing him off by pointing out his mistake, the builders decided to enact the novel solution of simply incorporating both designs into the building.
In 2005, Luzhkov ordered the hotel to be demolished and a replica built in its place, claiming the original building was structurally unsound. This was a tactic Luzhkov often employed: he would tear down historically significant buildings and then rebuild cheap copies in their place that lacked all of the charm of the original, thereby allowing him to preserve “history” but also ensuring he would make a shitload of money from the lucrative construction deals.
Figure 4: The ersatz hotel.
The case of the Hotel Moskva was no different. The story goes that the original building was not, in fact, “structurally unsound” but rather built like a brick shit house, so much so that the wrecking ball actually broke on the first day, leaving the demolition crews unsure of what to do. After many delays, the building was eventually brought down and a new, ugly simulacrum was constructed, now featuring a cream and beige exterior. After initially declaring that they would build the new hotel with a cohesive facade, choosing one of the original two designs, the builders ended up conjuring the ghost of Stalin by again including both designs. If nothing else, the dysfunction of tyranny has been safely preserved in modern day Moscow.
Black Box in an Old Garage:
Re-visioning Abramović and Kentridge in the New Moscow
Yesterday we visited the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, a beautiful modern art space that recently opened in a renovated bus depot originally designed by the Constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov. This kind of thoughtful reappropriation of underused communist spaces into innovative cultural spaces seems to be indicative of a new movement that is just starting to take hold in Moscow. After many years of architectural apathy, in which a tyrannical mayor led the charge to tear down entire historic blocks in favor of throwing up gaudy apartment buildings, urban planners are slowly beginning to gain influence in preserving, renovating, and tastefully adapting Soviet landmarks.
Figure 1: The Garage as museum.
Figure 2: The Garage as garage.
Indicative of its relevance in the contemporary arts scene, the Garage was exhibiting the same twin shows on display at NYC’s MoMA last fall (albiet in somewhat modfied forms): Maria Abramović’s The Artist is Present and William Kentridge’s Five Themes. Abramović’s work has always been more interesting in theory to me than in practice, but I found this version of the show almost more compelling than the MoMA incarnation precisely because it included a room-sized video reflection on Maria Abramović’s performance at MoMA in which she sat in a chair for 75 days staring at the range of museum visitors who sat down in the chair opposite her. In the new piece, one wall is covered with hundreds of video feeds of Abramović, shot presumably over the course of the three months she performed in New York. On the facing wall, we see video of the people with whom she shared her gaze. There is weeping; there is disinterest; there is everything in between. You find yourself trying to unpack the many moments on display: What was this person thinking? Were they sharing something intimate with Abramović? Were they trying to create intimacy when there was none? In its entirety, the sum of these wanting gazes is oddly moving—it captures and summarizes something human in a manner that I found lacking when I watched Abramović performing in real time at MoMA. But then again, the quiet disconnect one felt watching her just sit there, in which you think, Is this all? Should I be feeling more? might’ve been her point. Still, here, reflection, summation, re-presentation—as it often does—brings a host of questions that I found richer than the original event itself, which is interesting because I thought the rest of the show, a sort of “greatest hits” of her performance pieces with her longtime partner Ulay, either shown on video or reperformed by (often naked) actors, really fell flat, as they almost always lacked the life, the urgency, the context of the original. So: the replay can enhance or deaden the original, sometimes at the same time.
This act of re-reflection was no more poignant than my experience in re-experiencing the Kentridge exhibit. I’ve loved Kentridge for quite some time—his aesthetics (stop motion charcoal animations, often marked by technical drawings, arrows, and birds) and his thematic concerns (the politics of race, urban decay, the legacies of colonialism and Apartheid) are all close to my heart. When I first saw the MoMA retrospective it was utterly jammed, which was frustrating, because I wanted to spend a long time in each room and I wanted to do this alone, without other visitors, as if I could have my own private seance with each of his worlds.
Figure 3: Chambre Noir/Black Box (2005)
In one room of the MoMA exhibition there were two mixed media mechanical theater boxes that I had never seen before, both of which came out of his work designing a production of The Magic Flute: Preparing the Flute (2005) and Chambre Noir/Black Box (2005). The performances of each mechanical theater alternated. Each was about 20 minutes in duration. Preparing the Flute was beautiful, but Black Box was completely breathtaking. A true masterpiece. At the MoMA show I watched the performance twice through, trying to tell myself to watch more closely each time, but each time getting the sense that I had missed so much.
The piece itself is about the 1904 German massacre of the native Herero in what is today Namibia. Many modern historians consider this the first genocide of the 20th century and for many years all records of its occurence were struck from the public record. Many of the herero bodies were sent back to Germany for study by scientists who were already deep into their influential theories of racial anthropometry. The haunting music that rises and falls throughout the piece comes from a famous 1937 performance of The Magic Flute by Sir Thomas Beecham in Berlin for a Nazi party on the rise.
"What does it mean to be singing a song about the benevolence of humankind and the brotherhood of man, with all of the Nazi brass celebrating that moment?" writes Kentridge. “As a symbol of the Enlightenment, Sarastro [the high priest in The Magic Flute] combines all knowledge with all power. In the 218 years since Mozart wrote the opera, we have come to realize what a toxic mixture this is: the combination of certainty (because with knowledge or wisdom comes also the certainty of that wisdom) and the right to a monopoly of violence.”
Figure 4: The ghost in the machine, revealed.
What is astounding about the piece is that there are so many moving parts: there is the theater itself, 12 feet tall, constructed beautifully in wood, with a 4 foot proscenium, and a series of partitional wings that recede to the backdrop. Onto this theater multiple videos are projected, including stop motion animation of ledgers and callipers measuring skulls, ledgers, geography, archival video of a rhino hunt, and video shot by the artist himself. And then there are the puppets—an imperial (and empirical) protractor, a running man with no arms, a mournful Herero woman made of wire and gauze.
My latest novel is primarily concerned with puppets and so I have hunted the world far and wide in search of great, strange performances. That sense of great grace that can only be attained by the inanimate. The puppets in Black Box are not controlled by any human hand, rather, they are connected to a mechanical system of gears and pulleys, which makes the tenderness of their appearance and movement all the more astounding. We are floored, moved to tears by these simple creatures of metal and paper and cloth, caught up in what Frieud calls the “uncanny"—in this case brought on by the recognition of life in something that is most clearly not alive, left stranded in the cognitive and emotional chop that such dueling truths leave in their wake. What is astonishing about the Black Box, as is the case in all masterpieces, is that all of these moving parts—the puppets, the artifact of the theater, the projection, the sense of the uncanny, do not compete with one another but seamlessly combine into something much more profound than the sum of its parts.
One of the puppets, which features a megaphone for a head, is a kind of narrator or MC for the visual/mnemonic dance which takes place across the stage. The puppet is wearing a sandwich board that features the word Trauerarbeit, another of Freud’s terms, which means “the work of mourning,” or the process of arriving at an objective view of something or someone once that thing is gone. For Freud, it was a process of “detachment and de-vesting,” but Kentridge, by beautiful recalling, reenacting, and recasting the tragedy in Namibia on an invented stage seems to call the nature of this work into question. What does it mean to mourn? Can we mourn something that did not directly affect us? Or is the point that everything effects us whether we know it or not? As in: we are audience members to the Black Box, with or without our choosing.
Kentridge explains that the Black Box itself is a triple-entendre, as it refers to “the black box of the theater, a space for experimenting, the chambre noir, the space between the lens and the camera’s eyepiece, and the black box as a recorder of disasters in airplanes.”
The first time I witnessed the Black Box, I knew none of this. I was simply taken in by the utter beauty, the ache of the puppets, the depth, the layers, the hunt of the rhino, the images from ledgers, the chattering dance of the skull, the scratch and pop of the arias. My first time with the box I was quite simply blown away. During my second viewing, I studied the moments more closely, tried to parcel out the magic. Afterwards, I spent some time looking at the theater’s guts, marveling at how all this could be created by a series of machines and also appreciating that Kentridge had made no attempt to cover up the ghost in the machine—rather, the transparency was an integral part of the performance, perhaps the performance.
Thus, I was very excited to see the Black Box again in a new context, in a repurposed Constructivist garage in Moscow. I was worried the Black Box wouldn’t be included in the show for some reason. Maybe it was too difficult to transport. Maybe a spring had popped loose in transit. I ran through the show, searching for it. And then there it was. I practically jumped for joy. I sat down and watched it through for a third time.
This time around, I was struck by a different kind of re-visioning, perhaps something along the lines of Trauerarbeit—I knew more of the story behind the art; I was equipped with knowledge, and in the time between then and now, my idea of the piece had superseded the piece itself, my admiration had moved away from that initial awe into something closer to nostalgic reverence. I had filed it away in my “classics library;” I had settled into a kind of banal wisdom. In Moscow, I blinked and nodded, not mourning the victims of the Herero genocide but rather my own loss of wonder. And here is where I lie, knowing more, yet knowing less. But then this is the act of viewing, I suppose. This is the act of art and I would have it no other way.
Apple’s book failure and the Borgesian dilemma of reading the finite on an infinite screen.
Recently, I published an article in the Believer about the exciting opportunities eBooks afford writers and publishers to embrace the medium’s strengths without attempting to simply replicate the print technology of old. At the time of writing this piece, like many readers who prefer reading words on paper to a screen, I had not really done heavy reading on a device. I had an iPad, but I had only dabbled with plucking samples here and there from the iBookstore. This changed after two experiences.
The first was that I spent many, many hours with a designer working on a interactive version of my first novel, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet. Thinking about how to adapt this book into an eBook was a rich, rewarding task but it also made me confront the current problems with how Apple delivers eBooks from its online store. For all eBooks that are simply straightforward versions of their print book counterparts (i.e. books that work in the ePub format) there is the iBookstore. Like many online boutiques, the iBookstore fails on many fronts in that it comes nowhere close to the wonderful tactile browsing environment of a real bookstore (there is certainly room for some brilliant designer to work his/her magic here), but at least all the books are in one place and there is some “if you like this book, you might also like this book” cross-referencing à la Amazon. The big problem comes if you want to (as we did) design an eBook that does anything interactive or innovative. The ePub format just cannot handle this. So in effect you have to handcraft your own “app,” as thousands of magazines and publishers are now starting to do, basically reinventing the wheel every time. Almost all of these apps are artisanal, and most are clunky, as were probably the first wheels or codexes or horseless carriages. To my mind, one of the most successful examples of innovation—that is using the strengths of the medium (ability to present audio/video extras, cross reference, etc) —is the New Yorker App, but then they had access to the kind of resources that many publishers/writers/draftsmen don’t.
The problem, however, is not really with the apps themselves, but with how Apple takes anything that is an app, including book apps, and puts it in its catch-all “App Store.” There is a category for “book apps,” but in essence your interactive book, which is trying to push the limits of what eBooks can and can’t do, is competing against Angry Birds and a host of other addictive, mind-numbing apps that are designed to help people gobble up thirty-second chunks of their day. There is no cross-referencing between the iBookstore and the “books” section of the App Store—in fact, these people are in competition with each other. As with all apps, everything has to be vetted by the Apple people. In its quest for a beautiful, streamlined environment, Apple is suppressing a real opportunity for innovation in eBooks and browsability by its readership.
Thus, after my experience navigating the pitfalls of eBook innovation on the iPad, I have to say I was even more reluctant to step into the quickly expanding world of e-readership. Given the choice, I will almost always buy a book in its print form. My attitude necessarily changed for the same reason I imagine it changes for a lot of people: I went on a trip. A long trip. And I wanted to bring along a bunch of books. In addition, as I was on my trip, I heard about new books that I couldn’t just run out and buy at my local bookstore in Moscow or Kigali. But I could download them instantly. Our cultural expectation for instant gratification is getting a bit ridiculous (another topic for another day) but I was glad to have these books available at the touch of a button. So I started to read on the iPad. At first I wondered about the backlit screen, but this is a real non-issue unless you are reading on a bright sunny beach or are a mole rat. It is true that you cannot read during takeoff and landing, but I found I could occupy myself with other things during these times. For instance: watching my plane take off from planet earth.
I still find the “turning of the page” animation that Apple no doubt spent millions of dollars concocting a little ridiculous. Sometimes I stop and shake my head at the magic show taking place: I am rubbing my finger across a piece of glass, pretending to pick up a piece of paper that is bound to a spine of glue and then flip this piece of paper over? Maybe this visual metaphor was necessary for the first generation of tablet readers, to ease those of us used to the old print technology into the new digital age, but I suspect that this kind of song and dance will fall away as eBooks become the norm. I also hope that as our expectation of what print books can and should do falls away, we might be able to learn from the lessons of print technology (white margins, readable chunks of text, portability) while also pushing the boundaries of all the exciting things a screen can do that a print book cannot.
In general, I liked reading on the iPad. I like reading in landscape, I like how the iPad sits against my stomach. I like jumping around the book using the contents page. I use the notes function. I use the search function. I bookmark. The big thing I do miss is the geography of the printed book. Knowing instinctively how much is left by the thickness of the pages in your right hand. Print books also have unique physical dimensions. Each book has a different feel, a different weight, a different smell. You know what book you are reading even without your eyes open. When you read on the iPad, however, all books (particularly all ePub books!) come in the same wrapper. They feel the same, they look the same, they have the same fonts. In a way, reading on the iPad reminds me of Jorge Luis Borges’s haunting story The Book of Sand, in which the narrator comes across an infinite book that contains the pages of all other books in the universe. At first intrigued, the idea of the book begins to terrify him. He considers burning it, but reasons that the smoke from the book would be infinite and thus suffocate the world, so he ends up abandoning it in the National Library, on some anonymous shelf. I feel some sense of this low-grade unease when reading on the iPad, as if the book I am reading at that particular moment in time might be part of a much larger book, and that I am actually reading all books at once. Then again, maybe this feeling is not such a bad feeling because maybe it is true.