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A controversy on bookshelves

The success of Jaswant Singh's A Call to Honour underlines the fact: Nothing sells like controversy. Here are a few similar bestsellers.

india Updated: Aug 05, 2006 03:48 IST

Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Rushdie’s fourth novel was inspired, in part, by the life of Prophet Muhammad. The novel was banned in several countries, including India, and prompted Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa for the death of Rushdie. In India, the book went underground and sold briskly either as pirated copies or as Photostats. It was also a Booker Prize finalist.

Lajja by Taslima Nasrin: Originally written in Bengali and published in 1993, the book (an account of the anti-Hindu riots in Bangladesh post Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992) was banned in Bangladesh. The book has been translated into several languages, including English, Persian, Marathi and Malayalam and continues to be a hot seller.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: Based on the controversial premise that the Catholic Church has conspired to cover up the true story of Jesus Christ, the book zoomed to the top of the bestseller list in 2003, the year it was published. It has, since then, been made into a film by Columbia and at last count in May this year had sold 60.5 million copies.

Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi by Katherine Frank: The book courted controversy even before it hit the stands. Maneka Gandhi filed a libel suit in London alleging that Frank had defamed her late husband, Sanjay Gandhi. Against all odds, she was awarded damages and the guarantee that future editions of the book would delete the objectionable sections. Predictably, the book sold very well.

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling: They’ve sold 300 million copies, been translated into 47 languages and spawned films, video games and other merchandise. Fundamentalist Christian groups, however, find parallels with the occult in the stories about witches and wizards and more than one group has denounced the series as the work of Satan.

Truth, Love and a Little Malice by Khushwant Singh: Some excerpts of Singh’s autobiography, detailing the relationship between the former PM Indira Gandhi and her daughter-in-law Maneka Gandhi, were published in India Today, to gain publicity before its launch. The publication of the book was held up for more than five years after Maneka Gandhi filed a case against the release of the book.