In a plot worthy of a Jorge Borges tale, Argentine authorities are warning that foreign books can poison readers.
“If you put your finger in your mouth after paging through a book, that can be dangerous,” explained one of the policy supporters to the Wall Street Journal.
To protect the public, the government is seizing foreign books and storing them in a central warehouse. It will not turn them over unless an owner shows up in person and proves that the ink contains less than 0.06 percent lead.
The result is that Amazon orders are going undelivered and, according to the Financial Times, holes are appearing in Argentine bookstores where foreign titles used to sit.
If there’s any bright side to this story, it’s that the Argentine government appears to have jumped through the looking glass for economic reasons and not cultural ones.
According to Rafael Mathus, the New York correspondent for Argentina’s Nacion newspaper, the book ban is part of a misguided import-export strategy.
And for now all is not lost — the government has so far decided that e-readers are safe to use even if their paper equivalents are not. Argentines who have had their books seized may wish to console themselves by downloading a Kindle copy of Fahrenheit 451.