Black Books

When I was young there still existed the concept of “Black Books,” books of such an evil reputation that merely possessing them meant that one was somehow in danger of corruption. And I am not talking about porn here. I am talking about books with ideas so dangerous that people genuinely feared them.

Well, of course, with reputations like that hordes of young folks could not wait to get their hands on them, The Picture of Dorian Grey, anything by Nietzshe or De Sade, and, above all others by such heights as to make it untouchable, The Prince by Uncle Niccolo Machiavelli. I got my copy of The Prince when I was fourteeen, simply because of its evil reputation and frankly I did not understand a word of it. At the time I did not know that the principal character in it was actually a relative of mine no less and it would not have mattered, I still would not have understood a word of it!

It was not until I grew somewhat older and learned something of Renaissance history that his words and advice made sense, to be both the lion and the fox, that it is better to be feared than to be loved, these are sound principles for living. And I learned something else, though I did not realize it until I became a writer myself.

The initial runs of the Black Books were very small, insanely tiny by our standards, One of Nietzsche’s classic works sold less than ninety copies when it was first published. It was their reputation that ultimately sold them, made them something that no literate individual would consider his library even near complete without. But they have stood up to the test of time and have outlived those who sought to suppress them and the ideas they contained.

And that is something that all who write material that others disapprove of should remember. Our ideas are, in the end, not sustained and spread by those who love us, but rather by those who hate us. So let us echo the words of the wise Roman who said, “Oderant dum metuant.” Let them hate us as long as they fear us.


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