(Walking Bookfairs)
(Walking Bookfairs)

Opinion | Shelf doubt

The famed doorstopper of a novel on Russia set during the Napoleonic wars hit the news as a point of contention in a court of law

If you have Leo Tolstoy’s War And Peace on your bookshelf, you may have some explaining to do. The famed doorstopper of a novel on Russia set during the Napoleonic wars hit the news as a point of contention in a court of law, no less. According to media reports, it came up in the course of a bail plea hearing of one Vernon Gonsalves at the Bombay High Court recently. The Pune Police contended that possession of a copy of the book constituted “highly incriminating evidence" against him, and a judge asked him to explain why he had such “objectionable material" with him. If this news sent you scurrying to ruffle through all those volumes stacked side-by-side in your library, you are not alone.

If you find Tolstoy’s offending classic, however, do not panic. Precautions are easily taken. You could always get rid of it, for example. This would apply even if you’re not done reading it. This can be done guiltlessly. The book is over 1,000 pages long, after all. But if finish it you must, it might make sense to cover its jacket in newspaper, or at least smudge out the first word of the title. But then, “war" is not the only word that could potentially strike cops as scurrilous. Other titles that hint at violence could prove risky too, especially if written by people with odd-sounding names. Among others, Samuel Huntington’s Clash Of Civilizations comes to mind. It doesn’t just have a flaming title, but even a scandalously striped world map.

As it turns out, though, you need not have worried after all. The offending title, as has later been confirmed, was Biswajit Roy’s

War And Peace In Junglemahal: People, State And Maoists. It’s unlikely you would have this one.

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