Salman Rushdie The Satanic Verses.
Viking, 547 pages, $19.95

Although the banning of books has a long history, the West, apart from the sordid Hitler decade, has not been active in that field for some time. The number of books banned in the West in this century has been so low as to make each of them a cause célèbre: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Lolita. Yet each of these was officially deemed an affront on moral grounds (sexual, to be precise), not political ones.

In the Third World, the situation is quite different: Third World countries are as serious about their politics as we once were about our sex lives. This has been brought home to us again recently by the act of the Indian government banning Salman Rushdie’s new novel, The Satanic Verses, for its unflattering picture of Islam. I don’t wish to blame the Indian...


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