How many books make you a suspect?

negriFrench police researching the case of Julien Coupat – one of the “nine of Tarnac” suspected of sabotaging the overhead lines of the TGV in November 2008 – have sofar been unable to link him to the sabotage. French newspapers now report that police have swooped down on Coupat’s library as their only piece of evidence. The police noted, in bold, that they found five thousand books in the house Coupat lives in. Among them were works on philosophy, history, and literature. They also noted that several of the books were not translations, but editions in the original language. Libération writes:

Dans le dossier d’instruction un long PV revient sur la bibliothèque de la communauté de Tarnac. «Cinq mille ouvrages», écrit en gras le brigadier qui relate les perquisitions du 11 novembre. Des livres conservés dans une pièce de l’appartement du 2, place de l’Eglise, à Tarnac et classés entre «les archives, les pensées philosophiques, les ouvrages littéraires et l’histoire des civilisations».

I haven’t counted our books recently, but I would estimate that we own around 3000. Should we be worried? Perhaps I should, because we own at least one of the 27 books that French police singled out as suspect: Antonio Negri’s Books for Burning. At least I can honestly tell the police it belongs to my partner.

Perhaps the police have adopted president Sarkozy’s attitude to books. He recently complained to have suffered when he was made to read The Princess of Cleves in his youth. The Guardian reports that sales of the book have soared as it has become a symbol of resistance to Sarkozy’s government, especially among French university staff. Similarly, downloads of the leftist cultural critique that Julien Coupat is suspected of having written (and which is actually quite critical of Negri’s work) are soaring. L’insurrection qui vient has been reprinted and is widely available in bookshops.

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