Once they used to say that Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, and Baghdad reads, and when I lived in Baghdad in 1988-90 the book market flourished, a scruffy haven of old and sometimes wonderful books. Later I read of the dreadful business of libraries sold off piecemeal as the price of survival, the slow, tragic dismantling of decades of intellectual life in the study and the living-room. More recently still, the old book market was said to be flourishing on Mutannabi Street once again. Now I have from an old Baghdad colleague the news that the books market is no more, bulldozed by the city authorities in what they claim is a normal tidying up of urban life. That’s the kind of normal tidying up of urban life which has bulldozers crushing bookstalls during the night. Poor Baghdad. The city of a thousand libraries, ink from which stained the Tigris black during the Mongol sack in 1258, is suffering once again. Baghdad reads no more, if its rulers have their way.