Single-digit heaven

Wendy Doniger reports that Penguin’s failure to continue defending her book has caused it to…become much more popular than it was.

What is new, and heartening, this time is that the best are suddenly full of passionate intensity. The dormant liberal conscience of India was awakened by the stunning blow to freedom of speech that had been dealt by my publisher in giving in to the demands of the claimants, agreeing to take the book out of circulation and pulp all remaining copies.

I think the ugliness of the word “pulp” is what struck a nerve, conjuring up memories of “Fahrenheit 451” and Germany in the 1930s. The outrage had been pent up for many years, as other books, films, paintings and sculptures were forced out of circulation by a mounting wave of censorship.

My case was simply the last straw, in part because of its timing, just when many in India had begun to view with horror the likelihood that the elections in May will put into power Narendra Modi, a member of the ultra-right wing of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

If Mr. Batra’s intention was to keep people from reading the book, it certainly backfired: In India, not a single copy was destroyed (the publisher had only a few copies in stock, and those in bookstores quickly sold out), and e-books circulate freely. You cannot ban a book in the age of the Internet. Its sales rank on Amazon has been in single-digit heaven.

Streisand effect innit.


  1. Blanche Quizno says

    That is wonderful news, if almost predictable. When Christians in this country have called for boycotts of movies they consider offensive, those films, which otherwise might have passed through the theaters virtually unnoticed suddenly become immensely popular. People who might not have had any interest in the subject matter take notice of the Christian overreaction and decide to go see for themselves what all the fuss is about, you see.

    And the religious never come out looking good…

    Nice to see this is a worldwide phenomenon.

  2. mildlymagnificent says

    I wondered if this would be a Streisand effect – own goal combination. Looks like it.

    How accurate do you need to be when shooting yourself in the foot after all?

  3. shash says

    Several deeply religious friends of mine have read it now, and find it… interesting, balanced and reasonable. A few glaring historical mistakes, maybe a bit too much Freudian interpretation, but by no means racist or disrespectful.

    And it wouldn’t have happened without the idiotic protests! There’s something to thank the radicals for, after all!

  4. says

    Why this is not more obvious to people i just don’t know. When someone says something is bad, we have an instinct to want to know why for ourselves. It’s hard to deal with a potential threat if you don’t know precisely how it might effect you. Outside of a North Korea style suppression campaign this sort of thing is less useful in the modern world.

  5. Pieter B, FCD says

    Makes me wonder if I should pick up a few copies and put ’em up on eBay India.

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