Critics and Controversies

When in solitude, a good book comes to rescue the mind from its state of seclusion. Francis Bacon famously quoted – “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” Although books are considered to be a powerhouse of knowledge and reading is encouraged, not all books are appreciated.

Some books and their authors have been embroiled in controversy for expressing their opinion on certain issues which are unacceptable to the society. Several authors have faced severe criticism for portrayal of obscene content, racism, violence, use of expletive language and extreme political views. This has led to several books being banned in quite a few countries.

Notable among the many books that were banned is Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Rushdie’s narrative sparked a worldwide outrage among Muslims, with many accusing him of blasphemy and maligning their beliefs of monotheism, the very foundation of Islam. The controversy was further fuelled when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie.


Salman Rushdie’s with his book. Pic Courtesy: The Gaurdian

In 1995, Rushdie was controversy’s child once again when he published his novel The Moor’s Last Sigh. The book was unofficially banned in India by the then Prime Minister P.V.Narasimha Rao as it described a character who resembled Balasaheb Thackeray, the leader of the Shiv Sena Party. The book also mentions a dog named after India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Although the ban was lifted, vendors did not sell the book due to fear of vandalism.


The Moor’s Last Sigh. Pic Courtesy: wikipedia

Taslima Nasreen, famous for her feminist views, had to face her share of criticism when she published her Bengali novel Lajja. Set in the background of communal violence in Bangladesh, the story highlights the struggles of a patriotic Hindu family against the native Muslims. The book irked Islamic fundamentalists who accused Nasreen of making derogatory comments to attenuate their religious beliefs. Eventually, she was forced to flee the country after she allegedly received death threats.


Taslima Nasreen and her controversial book Lajja. Pic Courtesy: Youthkiawaaz

Dan Brown’s historical thriller The Da Vinci Code came under fire for depicting historical and scientific inaccuracies. The book narrates the adventures of Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor who specializes in symbols, as he uncovers a code which he finds beside the slaughtered body of the curator of the Louvre. The book invited the wrath of the Christian community world over and subsequently was denounced by many Roman Catholics and Christian denominations. They even went on to accuse Brown of attacking the Church.


Da Vinci Code. Pic Courtesy: Geardiary

In 2007, acclaimed Kannada author S.L.Bhyrappa’s novel Aavarana was the eye of controversy. The story revolves around the life of Lakshmi, who breaks all ties with her traditionalist family, to marry the man of her choice, Amir. Her experiences and struggles in the conservative Muslim family leads her to discover the many sections of caste, creed and religion in Indian history. The book describes Tipu Sultan’s intolerance towards other faiths and gives an account on what Islamic rule did to ancient Indian social and cultural life. The book was not well accepted with many people calling for its ban, including noted author and Jnanapit awardee Dr. U.R. Ananthmurthy, who went on to say that Bhyrappa did not possess the skill to write.


Aavarana. Pic Courtesy: wikipedia

– Shrilekha Mohan


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