Art installation of ‘The Tower of Babel’ commemorates Buenos Aires (Argentina) being named World Book Capital of 2011

I was randomly flicking through the New English Bible one day and stumbled across the very interesting story about the Tower of Babel.  As an introduction to my chosen news article for today, here is the biblical reference that I enjoyed.

Building the Tower of Babel


“Building the Tower of Babel”
from the ‘Bedford Book of Hours’ [c. 1423]
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Events leading up to the building of the Tower of Babel

Before the Great Flood, when Noah built his ark under the instruction of God and salvaged what was necessary for life after, people lived in one place and never ventured far.

“So far as we know, all the people on the earth before the great flood, lived in the lands where the two great rivers flowed, called the Tigris and Euphrates. This part of the world was very full of people; but few or none crossed the mountains on the east, or the desert on the west; and the great world beyond was without people living in it.”


But after the Great Flood, people began to move around going from one place to another to seek and build new homes further away from each other, living some vast distances from people they once knew.

“This moving about was a part of God’s plan to have the whole earth used for the home of men, and not merely a small part of it. Then, too, a family who wished to serve God, and do right, could go away to another land if the people around them became evil; and in a place by themselves they could bring up their children in the right way…”


The biblical telling of the Tower of Babel

After the Great Flood, Noah’s ark rested on Mount Ararat (the highest mountain in modern day eastern Turkey), from where many of the people moved southward into a country between two great rivers: the rivers Tigris and Euphrates; and there they built houses for themselves.

They undertook to build a great city, which should rule all the peoples around them. They found that the soil in that country could be made into bricks, and that the bricks could be heated and made hard; so that it was easy to build houses to live in, and walls around their city to make it strong against enemies.

And the people said to each other,

“Let us build a great tower,
that shall stand on the earth and shall reach up to the sky;
so that we may be kept together,
and not scattered abroad on the earth.”

So they began to build their great tower out of bricks, which they piled up, one story above another.

But God did not wish all the people on the earth to live close together, just as they had once lived before the great flood. God knew that if they all kept together, those that were wicked would lead away from God those that were good, and all the world would become evil again, as it had been before the flood.

[ My added thoughts:
To avoid the pollution of individual people’s integrity (of mind, body and spirit) and negative interference with correct ways of living and being, people had to cluster into groups of like-minded individuals to reinforce, develop and grow themselves with the objective of a winning, maturing and promising human race that would be able to instil within themselves, and their successors (and children), the proper ways of human living and human form. 

There were those who had lower ways of being and it was decided that these people should be separated from others because it was known, without doubt, of their negative influence

It was known that over the long-term this negative influence had to be minimised and managed to avoid its detrimental effect towards the advancing evolution of the human race

Thus boundaries between different groups of peoples and their thoughts and ways were formed.  Nowadays each cluster of people are said to have their own culture to allow progress and development in their own way and at their own pacing.  ]

So, to prevent people from all staying in one place, God took action while they were building this great city and tower with which they intended to rule the world: God caused their speech to change.  At that time, all men were speaking one language, so that everybody could understand what every other person said.

God caused men to change their language, perhaps not all at once, but by degrees, little by little.  After a time, the people that belonged to one family found that they could not understand what the people of another family were saying, just as now Germans do not understand English, and French people cannot talk to Italians, until they have learned the different languages.

As people began to grow apart in their speech they moved away into other places, where the families speaking one language could understand each other and live together. So the men who were building the city and the great tower could no longer understand each other’s speech; they left the building without finishing it, and many of them went away into other lands. So the building stayed forever unfinished.

And the city was named Babel, a word which means “confusion”. It was afterward known as Babylon, and for a long time was one of the greatest cities of that part of the world, even after many of its people had left it to live elsewhere.

Part of the people who left Babylon went up to the north, and built a city called Nineveh, which became the ruling city of a great land called Assyria, whose people were called Assyrians.

Another company went away to the west, and settled by the great river Nile, and founded the land of Egypt, with its strange temples and pyramids, its Sphynx, and its monuments.

Another company wandered northwest until they came to the shore of the great sea which we call the Mediterranean Sea. There they founded the cities of Sidon and Tyre, where the people were sailors, sailing to countries far away, and bringing home many things from other lands to sell to the people of Babylon, and Assyria, and Egypt, and other countries.

So after the flood, the earth again became covered with people living in many lands and speaking many languages.

national flags of the world-languages

The newspaper article:

Buenos Aires gets own book tower

[reference: ‘China Daily’ (newspaper); topic: “World”;
13 May 2011; reporter: Luis Andres Henao of Reuters]

tower of babel-buenos aires-argentina-marta minujin-2011


Buenos Aires, ArgentinaA spiralling tower made from thousands of books in dozens of languages is the latest landmark to dot the skyline of Buenos Aires, named the World Book Capital this year, 2011.

Called the Tower of Babel, the 25-metre high installation by Argentine artist Marta Minujin is made from 30,000 books, donated by readers, libraries and more than 50 embassies.

Climbing up its seven floors of metal scaffolding, visitors to the tower hear music composed by Minujin and the voice of the artist repeating the word “book” in scores of languages.

On the walls, Japanese children’s books are packed next to adventure tales from Patagonia or a Basque translation of Argentina’s epic cowboy poem Martin Fierro.

“Building this tower has been a miraculous experience,” Minujin said, standing before the structure as curious passers-by gazed on in a downtown city square.

“A hundred years from now, people will say ‘there was a Tower of Babel in Argentina… and it didn’t need translation because art needs no translation’.”

Minujin, who worked with US artist Andy Warhol, built a full-scale model of the Parthenon in Buenos Aires in 1983 using books banned by the military dictatorship that ended that year.

This year’s installation marks Buenos Aires’ naming as the 2011 World Book Capital by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

“We’ve been laying books for 10 days straight,” said Sebastian Atienza, 26, who works for the company that built the tower under Minujin’s supervision. “But it’s worth it. It’s where all languages come together.”

When the exhibit ends later this month, Minujin said literature lovers will be allowed to come and pick one book each.

The rest will be brought down to start a new archive that she has already dubbed The Library of Babel, the name of a story by Argentina’s most famous author, Jorge Luis Borges.


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