Without book hunters, much of the knowledge of antiquity or the Middle Ages would be lost forever. A documentary on saving the world’s cultural heritage.
Dominican monk Najeeb Michael has twice saved his library from the clutches of radical Islamists. He is just one of many book hunters. For more than 30 years the American Benedictine monk Columba Stewart has travelled to war-torn regions of the world in search of ancient manuscripts. In Iraq, for example, he has succeeded in digitizing the writings from an ancient monastery. Also in Iraq he supports the work of Dominican monk Najeeb Michael. These intrepid book hunters are following in the footsteps of medieval monks who, with their libraries and copying of manuscripts, helped transmit the literature of antiquity throughout Europe. Ironically the Church’s official attitude to the collection and diffusion of what it often viewed as profane literature was ambivalent; all you needed in this world and the next was faith in God. The written word has often been the target of extremists also in Europe; most recently during the civil war in Bosnia in the 1990s, where one aim of the Bosnian Serbs was to eradicate the cultural identity of the region: for that reason they trained their artillery on Sarajevo’s National Library. Director Mustafa Jahic risked his life smuggling thousands of medieval texts out of the besieged city. Bestselling literary scholar Stephen Greenblatt stresses the significance of the book hunters of the Renaissance. He reminds us that Sophocles won second prize with “Oedipus Rex” at a theater festival. Wouldn’t we like to read the winning entry? But that manuscript has been lost. From Europe to the Middle East, this documentary introduces courageous individuals, past and present, who have dedicated themselves to saving the world’s cultural heritage for future generations.
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