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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
'Anti-Semitic' book sells out
Close-up of a book
A newspaper refused to publish extracts
A controversial novel by German academic Martin Walser has sold out on its first day of publication in Germany.

Tod eines Kritikers, Death of a critic, was called anti-Semitic by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper when it dropped plans to print extracts of the book.

Martin Walser
Martin Walser is a respected academic
A spokesman at the Berlin bookstore Dussmann said his store had ordered "three times as many copies as for best-selling authors like John Grisham".

"People undoubtedly want to see for themselves if the book is anti-Semitic," the spokesman said.

Walser has said he never thought the book could apply to the Holocaust, as his critics maintain.

'Hate'

He said if he had he would never have written it.

Fifty thousand copies of the book sold out on day one, said the book's publishers.

In May, newspaper publisher Frank Schirrmacher said the book was a "document of hate" full of "anti-Semitic cliches".

In an open letter to Walser, Schirrmacher said the novel was nothing but a "murder fantasy".

The main character in the book, which tells of a writer killing a critic, is based on the German Jewish literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki.

'Obsessive manner'

"You are not interested in the murder of a critic in his capacity as a critic. This is about the murder of a Jew," Schirrmacher said.

"I consider your novel... to be a document of hate.

"And I do not know which I should find more disconcerting: the obsessive manner in which you pursue your theme, or your attempt to disguise your so-called breaking of taboos as travesty and comedy," he wrote.

Walser, 75, has been criticised by Jewish leaders as being part of a revisionist wave that effectively denies the Holocaust.

Walser has denied he is a revisionist but he has refused to retract remarks he made in 1998 at a book award ceremony.

He said the deaths at Auschwitz were being used as a "moral cudgel" to hammer home "our (German) disgrace for current-day purposes".

See also:

29 May 02 | Europe
15 May 02 | Entertainment
10 Nov 98 | Europe
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