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Up in Flames

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 09 February 2014

Fire is one of the most savage forces on Earth, yet burning something can also offer the hope of purging and rebirth. We might use fire therapeutically to burn love letters from a failed relationship, or to clear the decks for the start of a new year. Burning can be very liberating.

Samira Ahmed reflects on our ambiguous relationship with fire. She looks at the way nature uses fire to play a crucial part in natural regeneration and at the scared fires central to many faiths.

Erich Kästner, author of 'Emil and the Detectives', witnessed his own books being burned by the Nazis in 1930s Berlin. Samira Ahmed talks to Michael Rosen about the significance of this event. She also explores the scientific properties of fire with Dr Matthew Juniper of the University of Cambridge.

Featuring music by Sibelius, Jim Reeves and Kurt Weill and with words of writers including W.B. Yeats, Simon Armitage and Germaine Greer.

Producer: Caroline Hughes
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Music Played

17 items
  • Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye (from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems)

    Publisher: Far Corner Books (1995)

  • Burned Letter by Alexander Pushkin (from Selected Lyric Poetry)

    Translator: James E. Falen, Publisher: Northwestern University Press

  • I Am Very Bothered by Simon Armitage (from Book of Matches)

    Publisher: Faber and Faber

  • Uber das Verbrennen von Büchern by Erich Kästner

    Publisher: Atrium

  • ‘Where Sibelius Fell Silent’ by Julian Barnes (article)

    Publisher: Jan/Feb edition Intelligent Life Magazine

  • Persian Fire by Tom Holland

    Publisher: Little, Brown

  • White Beech by Germaine Greer

    Publisher: Bloomsbury

  • Vacillation (excerpt) by W B Yeats from Selected Poems

    Publisher: Penguin Classics

  • Image for Jim Reeves

    Jim Reeves Your Old Love Letters

    I Love You More, 3CD Music Digital

  • Image for Charlie Parker

    Charlie Parker My Old Flame

    The Very Best of the Dial Years, Cleopatra

  • Image for Kästner /Weill

    Kästner /Weill Der Abschiedsbrief (The Farewell Letter)

    Performer: Anne Sofie von Otter.

    Speak Low, Deutsche Gramophone

  • Image for Magnet and Paul Giovanni

    Magnet and Paul Giovanni Procession

    The Wicker Man soundtrack, Trunk

  • Image for Jean Sibelius

    Jean Sibelius Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 105

    Performer: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

    Sibelius: Symphonies 6 & 7, Tapiola, Erato

  • Image for Johannes Ciconia

    Johannes Ciconia O beatum incendium

    Performer: Huelgas Ensemble. Performer: Paul Van Nevel.

    Ciconia: The Complete Works, Ricercar

  • Image for Death Cab for Cutie

    Death Cab for Cutie Grapevine Fires

    Narrow Stairs, Warner

  • Image for [traditional]

    [traditional] Birth of the Sun

    Performer: Australian Aboriginal.

    Didgeridoo Dreamtime, Hart

  • Image for Elvis Presley

    Elvis Presley Flaming Star

    Original Elvis Presley Collection, Sony Music CMG


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